To quote the old Meat Loaf song, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."
All spring, the Sunrise Mountain baseball, boys volleyball and softball teams were among the best in 5A. All three teams earned a top five seed in the playoffs, which began May 8.
West Valley Preps was at all three games, and the home team won 2.
It was Sunrise Mountain boys volleyball's first officiall playoff game since the 2018 5A semifinals and the #4 seed Mustangs were muddling through against #13 Canyon View, winning the first set 25-20 and trailing 10-9 in the second set.
Then the Jaguars, a team without a senior on its roster, went on a 10-4 run to lead 20-13. It was a splash of cold water the Mustangs needed, and they went on a 12-2 run to win the set - including seven straight points on junior Julian Loadholt's serve.
"We were expecting to shut them out. We played them in our first game and they got a lot better during the season. We weren't expecting it," senior Jordan Shinaut said. "I think we could have played better. We just started making our serves and Julian was going crazy. We can play better though."
From there the Mustangs confidently finished off the Jaguars 25-15 in the third set. Shinaut led the way with four kills.
"Early on we were nervous and it took us a while to settle in. For them this is their first playoff experience," coach Tony Gale said. "I told the boys to get out of their heads and play the game. Even when we have rough patches, the one thing that is true is they stay the course."
While this team of veterans play on different club teams and missed most of last year, they know each other very well. This group led Sunrise Mountain to a 4-0 start before the coronavirus wiped out the 2020 season.
The varied attack features seniors Shinaut, Radu Iofescu, Drew Van Treese and Connor Riley. Junior setter Kyle Berger directs the attack and has started since his frehman year. Sophomore libero Kyle Andersen is the most notable newcomer to the mix.
We got robbed last year, because we could have gone far in the playoffs. This year is my last chance and a lot of the boys' last chance so we're giving it our all," Shinaut said.
Baseball playoff games are often odd enough to begin with, never mind this year after not having a playoffs in 2020.
To account for this weirdness, it pays to have good pitching. Seven innings of one-hit ball by seniors Nick Lustig and Alex Ramirez powered #5 Sunrise Mountain (16-5) past #12 Marana (13-8) 2-1 in a May 8 5A playoff first round game.
"We've got a lot of faith in our pitching staff and they keep battling. We had two seniors on the mound today and they showed up in the big spots," Sunrise Mountain coach Michael Deardoff said. "We're happy with where we're at. We're excited for the next round. I think the first one is always the tough one, to be honest. And this year almost everyone is experiencing the playoffs for the first time."
Marana's lone run started with a hit batter in the third inning. The Mustangs tried a pickoff throw, which was dropped allowing the runner to get to second, then to third on a balk. A high chopper went in and out of the Mustangs fielder's glove and a run scored.
The Tigers took that 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth. Then senior Spencer Horwath walked and stole second. Junior Cruz Oxford hit a chopper up the middle to drive in the tying run.
Then in the fifth Lustig hit leadoff single. Seniors Bryce Kellerhals hit a ball that bounced off Lustig - so he was out and Kellerhals was safe at first. Kellerhals stole second and senior Adam Moser hit another RBI chopper up the middle.
Lustig said every 5A playoff team this year is a good team.
"Playoff baseball always has fewer errors, better pitching and better hitting. We hit the ball hard and well but right at people," Lustig said.
Ramirez came in to start the fourth. He allowed Marana's only hit - an infield single by senior Jaden Beck - but otherwise made short work of the Tigers, not allowing a walk in four innings.
He said if this team continues to trust in each other and play their game, they can win a 5A crown.
"I don't know about pressure. I love it all. I think it makes me throw better," Ramirez said.
Sunrise Mountain plays at #4 Canyon View (17-4) in a quarterfinal Tuesday at 6024 N. Perryville Road in Waddell Road.
Sunrise Mountain junior Skyla Mitchell reaches out in an attempt to tag out Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge sophomore Rachel Barriga during their 5A first round playoff game May 8 at Sunrise Mountain in Peoria. [Christine Andert/For West Valley Preps]
While softball had the best seed, the Mustangs also ended up with the toughest matchup. Since there was not a 2020 playoffs, #14 Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge is technically the defending 5A state champion.
The Nighthawks are young and entered the game with a 14-6. But this perennial power is still chock full of talent, as they showed getting two hits to take a 1-0 lead in the first.
For Sunrise Mountain (15-4) it was boom or bust all morning. Junior Skyla Mitchell led off the bottom of the second with the game-tying home run.
Then sophomore pitcher Camryn Davis smacked a line-drive homer inches over the fence in left center to begin the fourth. Otherwise, the Mustangs were befuddled by the off-speed pitches of sophomore Liliana Vigil German, who took advantage of their impatience with a series of ground ball outs.
"We didn't have clutch hitting today. We couldn't get timely hitting and people on and they were the better team today. I was disappointed that we let that type of pitcher dominate us," Sunrie Mountain coach Jody Pruitt said. "We didn't make adjustments soon enough and the ones that did hit the ball out of the yard."
For a while it looked like the Mustangs would skate by with a 2-1 win anyway. But junior Haiydn Warner hit the game-tying RBI with two outs to send it to extras.
Then with two outs in the eighth, sophomore Lola Weber and freshman Alexis Martinez hir back-to-back RBI for a 4-2 Nighthawks lead.
Sophomore Sadie Sua hit the Mustangs' third solo home run in the bottom of the eighth and Mitchell and senior Berlynn Stockton had singles with two outs. But freshman reliever Samantha Sotelo picked up the final out in the upset.
It was a tough way for three Sunrise Mountain seniors toe end their high school careers, particularly after this team entered the week 15-1.
"I feel bad for Sawyer. She's been such a great leader on our team. And Berlynn Stockton is a kid that works super hard. Saille Angul is a super kid."