It was a heartbreaking night for the Bobcats and their fans at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.
There would be no three-peat state title for No. 1 Benson following the 10-7 loss to Camp Verde in the 2A state title game. And despite not having a particularly good game by Benson standards, the championship was well within grasp.
The Bobcats, who had been held to two hits through five innings, were three outs away from a third consecutive state title, a four-run, 6-2 lead, seemingly safe.
Benson took the early lead with a run in the bottom of the third with Camp Verde pushing a pair of runs across the plate in the ensuing at-bat before the Bobcats rallied in the four-run fifth. After Benson retired Camp Verde in the sixth, the Bobcats added another run in the home half of the frame.
But it all derailed, quickly. Undeterred by having relinquished four fifth-inning runs and the 2-1 lead, third-ranked Camp Verde sent 13 hitters to the plate in the top of the seventh, aided by an uncharacteristic three Benson errors, loaded the bases with no outs. By the time the third out was recorded the Cowboys led 10-6.
Starting pitcher Katie Sherman gave way to Emily Darwin who finished up in the circle.
Letty Lopez gave the Bobcats renewed hope, leading off the bottom of the seventh with a line-shot home run that just cleared the wall in the left-center power alley.
“Tonight Camp Verde came out the better team. They did a better job executing their game plan than we did,” said Benson coach Brittney Batten, at the conclusion of the May 14 contest. “We fought… the girls worked hard, they fought… we had for the most part disciplined at bats but when it came down to it I think we probably just let our emotions get the best of us. Camp Verde is a great ball team. We saw them in Payson and they’ve grown immensely. Henry Smith [coach] has done a great job with them.”
Batten also put the defeat in perspective.
“Sometimes failure is more beneficial than success,” she said. “Sometimes a loss in a situation like this is a little bit more beneficial than success would have been… I’m excited to see how this drives our younger players to work and prepare for the next season.”
Emily Darwin, Jamie Barney, Lopez, Aly Fenn and Kayla Sherman accounted for the Bobcats five hits. Benson stranded seven runners while committing five errors to match Camp Verde’s five miscues.
Sherman went six innings in the circle and was tagged with the loss. She surrendered nine hits and fanned five. She posted a 29-3 season record and capped her prep career with 101 wins.
The Bobcats finish the season 30-4 overall and entered the game as the twice defending state champions. In the last four seasons, the Bobcats have a final four, runner up and two state titles. Benson teams have won five state championships since 2006.