Apache Junction High School softball coach Ed Matlosz was eating lunch Thursday when athletic director Norm Hoefer reminded him that the show unveiling the state softball tournament brackets was starting.
The two men walked to Hoefer’s office, turned on the show and were delighted and even a bit surprised when the Prospectors made it into the Class 4A tournament as the No. 16 seed.
Apache Junction had been ranked No. 18 heading into its final two regular-season games, and Matlosz wasn’t sure winning both games would vault the Prospectors into the last seed.
“I was hoping we could get in there but I didn’t know how it was going to work,” Matlosz said. “When we jumped in it was awesome.”
Then the sobering news hit: Apache Junction’s reward for making the playoffs is a 10 a.m. road game Saturday against Tucson Salpointe Catholic, the undefeated No. 1 seed in 4A.
How good is Salpointe? Well, it finished 20-0 and outscored opponents 235-23. It also won the 4A state championship in 2018 and 2019 — there were no playoffs in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The apparent disparity between the two teams has Matlosz thinking of one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
“You know what, when Buster Douglas took Mike Tyson out, no one expected that,” Matlosz said, referencing Douglas’ shocking knockout of Tyson in 1990. “We’re realistic. It’s no doubt a big task but you can’t back down. If you’re going to get the glory, I want our girls to have the first chance to beat them.”
Apache Junction isn’t without weapons of its own. Senior Tristen Greer, who leads the team with eight wins, will get the start. Greer also is batting .537 with a team-high 30 RBIs. Senior corner infielder Sarah Nieman is hitting .509 with 16 RBIs, junior Telly Ortiz is hitting .450 and junior Addison Cooksey leads the Prospectors with 10 stolen bases.
“Whatever I have in my hat from all my years in coaching, I’m going to throw at them,” Matlosz said. “We’re going to go down there fighting and try to dent their armor.”
For Apache Junction to have to pull off the impossible it will have to find a way to solve Salpointe pitcher Alyssa Aguilar, who has a 1.17 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 71 2/3 innings. Aguilar is just one of what Matlosz said are several “elite level club players” on Salpointe’s team.
“They’re human. They’re just good humans,” Matlosz said. “We’re in a different class right now. Hopefully we can get a run or two, get lucky, hold them down and then who knows what could happen.”
Editor’s note: Scott Bordow is the director of communications and community engagement for Apache Junction Unified School District.