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In its Central Region opener and the return of junior pitcher Natalie Monge, Sedona Red Rock High School’s softball team hung tough with visiting Paradise Honors High School for four innings.

But the Panthers scored 13 runs across the final two frames, aided by 11 Scorpions errors, to win 13-3 in six innings.

Scorpions junior pitcher Natalie Monge made her return from injury to the pitchers circle on Tuesday, March 21 in time for Sedona Red Rock’s first Central Region game. Monge hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, but the team lost 13-3 to visiting Paradise Honors High School.
“First four innings I thought we played solid ‘D,’ our pitching was great, we had some good at bats, [but] we couldn’t quite come through with that big hit in the first few innings,” Scorpions head coach Ethan Hartz said.

It was a pitcher’s duel in every sense of the term; both Monge and Paradise Honors junior pitcher Katie Hatcher led their respective teams in pitching and batting. They tied for a game-high two hits and two RBI.

With Monge, who is still not 100 percent, back in the pitcher’s circle, it gave a boost to the rest of the Scorpions defense against a high-powered Panthers offense. In its first four games of the season, Paradise Honors scored 50 runs.

“Having Natalie out there, you know, she’s a junior that has a lot of confidence and the other girls feed off of that, and so I think that really helps,” Hartz said.

Red Rock allowed just three base runners through the first four innings. Monge struck out the side in the second inning and only three of the 13 runs fell on her shoulders.

“I thought we came out really well and part of that of course is Natalie pitching,” said Hartz, who added that the team was still missing a couple of regular starters. “Even when they were putting it in play we were making plays that I haven’t seen us make in games this year.”

Offensively, the Scorpions [1-4, 0-1 Central] started on the front foot, getting on the board first after a Monge solo home run in the fourth.

In the first, junior first baseman Ally Alver drew a walk and senior catcher Courtney Chalmers doubled to put Hatcher in a jam, but she struck out the next two to escape.

Aside from the sixth inning, it was the most threatening Red Rock would be.

“But the runners were out there and we had our chances,” Hartz said. “A couple of hard-hit balls right to them, you can’t do anything about that.”

Hatcher kept the Red Rock batters in check throughout. In the second, she gave up a single but then struck out three straight; she finished with 13 punchouts.

Paradise Honors got to the Scorpions defense in the fifth. With no outs, a single and a double signaled what was
to come.

Monge would eventually strike out the side, but not before the Panthers scored seven runs. A Hatcher double scored the first two runs; she then advanced to third on an error, and scored on a passed ball.

Two more errors and two singles scored the last four runs to put Paradise Honors up 7-1.

In the sixth, a leadoff triple and a ground ball scored the eighth run, but an error allowed the batter, sophomore center fielder Ashlyn Buntin, to reach base; she then stole second and third. Buntin and four more runs scored.

Errors did benefit the Scorpions in the sixth. Consecutive errors let Monge reach third and then score off of a freshman center fielder Grace Hafner line drive hit. Hafner scored the final run on an error.

Monge led with two hits, two runs scored and one RBI while giving up three earned runs on eight hits with five walks and eight strikeouts.

“[The return was] pretty nerve wracking knowing I can’t really run fully, but I try my best, trying to pitch and bat all at the same time,” Monge said. “I did fine, I just need to practice more so I can get used to pitching a full six innings.”

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