5A state softball: Aztec's season ends in heartbreak with 6-5 loss in extra innings
RIO RANCHO — The Aztec softball team felt like it had one taken away in the 5A state softball tournament Saturday at the Cleveland High Softball Complex.
The Lady Tigers battled back from a 4-0 deficit after four innings to force extra innings in their game against Centennial, only to fall behind 6-4 in the eighth after a pair of plays at the plate.
In the bottom half of the inning, Aztec managed to get two runners aboard with two out, setting the stage for a dramatic — and bizarre — ending. Senior Hailey Morris smacked a triple, apparently plating two runs and tying the game at 6.
But the second run was never a run.
It was ruled that Lady Tiger baserunner Ashlyn Bradley never touched home plate, and she was called out after Centennial petitioned the play, giving the Lady Hawks a 6-5 win to advance to the championship game.
"I'm still not really sure what happened," Aztec head coach Jose Santistevan said. "Hailey hit it in the gap to score CheyAnn (Simkins) from third and Ashlyn from second, and I was watching Hailey to get her to third. Everything seemed normal. Ashlyn was in the dugout, and everyone was going crazy. We were going to do a suicide squeeze to win, and the next thing, they (the Lady Hawks) are cheering, and the ump said Ashlyn didn't touch home plate."
Santistevan said he asked the home plate umpire to ask the other umpires for help on the play, but he said all the umpire said was, "I don't need anyone's help. I saw it."
Close to four hours after the game — and Aztec's season — ended, Santistevan said he still couldn't believe what happened.
"I was just talking to Taylor (Santistevan) on the drive back and said, 'I wish I would have seen it,'" he said. "I'll take Ashlyn's word on it, and she said she stepped on the plate. It doesn't feel like we lost. It feels like it was taken from us. It was taken away."
Regardless of the controversial call, the Lady Tigers missed their share of opportunities to score more runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, trailing 4-3, Aztec had runners on the corners with two outs, but couldn't get a run across.
Then, in the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Tigers had the bases loaded with no outs and only came away with one run to force extra innings.
In the end, the Lady Tigers — who finished second in the state each of the last three years — came up short of that elusive state title and say goodbye to three seniors — Morris, Taylor Santistevan and McKinzie Reid, who all started for Aztec since they were eighth-graders. Jose Santistevan said he hopes their final game will serve as a valuable life lesson.
"We talked about how life's not always fair. You have to take the good and the bad, and deal with it. This was a bad break, and how they go forward will define them as young ladies," Santistevan said. "I hugged them and told them I love them. I can't say enough about what they've done for this program, and it will be hard to replace them. When you have kids that started as eighth-graders and been in the program that long, you have a special place in your heart for them."