MARANA, Ariz. - When Jayde Mandujano came to the plate with Milton-Freewater's Junior All-Stars up 1-0 in the fifth inning against Arizona Monday night, Arizona's outfield put a shift on the left-handed batter.
Mandujano made the home team pay as she smacked a shot just fair down the left-field line for an inside-the-park-home run and two insurance runs as M-F advanced at the West Coast regional tournament with a 3-0 victory.
"It was really a pitching duel," M-F manager Lance Bullock said, as each team traded 1-2-3 innings into the fourth, when Arizona got a base runner on. She was promptly thrown out stealing.
In the fifth inning, Collette Roberts walked and then stole second, and Nicole Hendley's single scored her for what proved to be enough for the victory.
Mandujano's homer followed.
"The big hit got the girls excited," Bullock said of Mandujano's shot.
The hit landed just fair before bouncing into foul territory. The left fielder, who had moved toward center field on the shift, then rolled her knee trying to track it down and Mandujano wasn't even threatened at home plate.
"She did a nice job," Bullock said of Mandujano's homer.
As for pitching, the three-run fifth couldn't have come at a better time. The runs allowed M-F to pull starter Roberts, who faced 13 batters and had seven strikeouts, and maintain her eligibility for tonight's game. Roberts was replaced by Taylor Entze, who struck out four of the 11 Arizona batters she faced.
The move leaves M-F with its full contingent of pitchers for tonight's rematch with Alaska. Stefanie Copeland, who was not eligible after pitching the entire 6-0 loss against Alaska Sunday, joins Roberts and Entze ready for action at 6:30 p.m. today.
"It was a great combination for us," Bullock said of Roberts' and Entze's pitching performance. "That (the three-run fifth inning) was a key moment for us, it frees up our pitching for tonight."
The Milton-Freewater squad opted to practice early again today, just as it did on Monday, in preparation of the Alaska team that shut it out Sunday. If M-F wins tonight, it plays the Alaska team again at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday for the right to go to the World Series beginning Monday in Kirkland, Wash.
"They think this is our game now," Bullock said. "The girls are really coming together right now. They've played a lot of games this season, but they've been living together (at the regional tournament) and it's been a really good thing for the girls. Some of the girls who were not quite so close before, they're closer now.
"It's brought them together," he said. "We have yet to play our best game, and I think tonight's the night. We're excited and looking forward to the challenge."
M-F 3, Arizona 0
M-F 000 030 0 - 3 4 3
Arizona 000 000 0 - 0 2 1
Robert, Entze (5) and Woodhall. Treko, Olebra (6) and Moreno.
HR - M-F: Mandujano.
Hits - M-F: Copeland, Hendley, Mandujano, Roberts. Ari: Maria, Mikie.