Every season has its share of unforgettable moments and record achievements, but 2015 seemed like an especially good year for baseball and softball milestones across the state.
While the state tournaments will provide plenty more opportunities for memories, here are the highlights that stood out from an entertaining regular season.
With one pitch on April 20, Tamara “T” Statman gained membership to her own personal club.
A second-inning strikeout against Anthem Boulder Creek gave the Phoenix Horizon senior 1,000 for her career, making her the first Arizona pitcher to reach that number since the pitching rubber was moved from 40 to 43 feet before the 2010-11 season.
She’s also just the third player nationally to accomplish the feat. The game against Boulder Creek was briefly interrupted to commemorate the achievement, which Statman admitted had been on her mind in the days prior.
“I’d seen a bunch of stuff on Twitter. It’s really hard to escape,” she said. “So getting it was really cool. It was almost kind of embarrassing that they stopped the game.”
What meant the most to Statman? The fact that the big moment came in a 6-3 win, and that the big strikeout – like every other one she recorded this season – will help raise money for the Arizona Skin Cancer Foundation, as part of her “T K’s for Skin Cancer” program, in which supporters donate money for each strikeout.
“It’s definitely more important because of the contributions that go to the skin cancer foundation,” Statman said “That’s probably the most important part.”
Thatcher senior Heath Motes also made Arizona history, breaking the state’s single-season stolen base record on April 23.
Entering his 21st game of the year with 50 steals, one shy of the previous record, Motes swiped three bases in a 9-7 Thatcher win over Pima to put himself atop the list.
Motes, who had already broken the 2A Conference record of 41 steals, finished the regular season with 56 and will have the opportunity to add to his total in the Division III state tournament.
The season started on a high note for Horizon baseball coach Eric Kibler, who picked up his 800th career win in Horizon’s first game of the year against Phoenix Shadow Mountain.
While that result was never in doubt with Horizon winning 11-0, Fountain Hills coach Mike Briguglio had to sweat out a milestone as his players delivered a seventh-inning, walk-off win on March 7 to give Briguglio career victory No. 700.
“It was definitely a fun way to do it,” Briguglio said. “It’s a big number, so you spend a little time reflecting. I reflected for a couple days, because it was a Saturday, and then on Monday, we went back to work.”
One more to watch out for: Glendale Cactus softball coach Bartt Underwood is two wins away from 500, and could reach the milestone during the Division II state tournament.
Next year, he’ll have the chance to catch Jeff Griffith, who accumulated 512 wins in 23 years as Cactus’ head coach and is now an assistant on Underwood’s staff.
Of the many perfect games thrown in the state this season, a few stand out – like Wednesday’s effort by Peoria Sunrise Mountain’s Austin Thomason, Austin Frey and Trent Paskiewicz. The three seniors struck out 12 against Phoenix Washington in recording the first combined perfect game in Sunrise Mountain history.
Also notable: Zach Pederson’s perfecto against Phoenix Pinnacle on March 6, which came two days after his Chandler Hamilton teammate, Zane Strand, tossed a no-hitter against Gilbert Williams Field.
Not a football score
We close with the craziest game of the season, a back-and-forth softball affair between Peoria Centennial and Glendale Deer Valley on April 14 that featured 43 combined runs and ended with Deer Valley claiming a 22-21 victory.
Centennial scored 15 runs over the final two innings alone, but Deer Valley made use of its last at-bat, getting four runs in the bottom of the seventh and winning on a walk-off single by Rene Burkland.
It was the drama of an entire season packed into one game. And now that the playoffs are about to begin, that should become a familiar feeling on diamonds everywhere around Arizona.