The state playoff brackets for baseball and softball were released late Thursday morning. With a quick turnaround ahead, Pinal County teams at least know who and where they are playing.

Here’s a brief look at the first-round matchups that will be played Friday and Saturday. It’s been a strong season for Pinal County, as 13 baseball and softball teams qualified for state. All games will be played at the higher seed unless otherwise indicated.

5A baseball

No. 15 Casa Grande (10-6) at No. 2 Scottsdale Horizon (15-5)

Saturday at 11 a.m.

Casa Grande Union comes into this first-round matchup in a bit of an offensive funk, but they lost to two excellent teams at the end of the regular season in Oro Valley Canyon del Oro (ranked No. 1 in 4A) and Nogales (No. 6 in 5A).

Prior to those two losses, the Cougars had won seven games in a row. They need their two best hitters, senior Jalen Malecio and sophomore Cole Carmichael, to set the tone offensively. Jordan Ragsdale (1.27 ERA) has thrown the ball tremendously for CG Union.

4A baseball

No. 3 Poston Butte (18-2) vs. No. 14 Flagstaff Coconino (10-7)

Saturday at 11 a.m.

The Broncos have been looking forward to this moment all season. They are loaded and ready to compete for a state championship. Poston Butte has all kinds of depth, but it also has star power in players like Colten Vercoe, Junior Lopez and Octavio Flores.

Vercoe has 67 strikeouts and a 1.46 ERA in 48 innings while slugging .984 with 18 extra-base hits at the plate. The Broncos have a 0.97 team ERA and a 1.269 team OPS.

No. 6 Vista Grande (11-4) vs. No. 11 Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain (14-6)

Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Vista Grande started the season 10-0 before suffering a four-game losing streak against some of the best competition in the state. Two of those losses came to Poston Butte. Now is the time for the Spartans to show they belong with the best.

They still have hopes of winning a state championship, but the road to getting their swagger back starts here. The Spartans have plenty of good hitters, but Emilio Barreras and Anthony Bolanos are the biggest bats, and those two also headline the pitching staff.

4A softball

No. 2 Vista Grande (15-1) vs. No. 15 Peoria (13-7)

Saturday at 10 a.m.

Let the fun begin for Vista Grande, a team that should be favored to reach the state title game. The No. 2 Spartans have almost no weaknesses, displaying lineup depth, superior defense and of course the dominant pitching of junior Alyssa Tinnin.

Opponents dread the sight of Tinnin in the circle. She has 141 strikeouts in 85 innings to go with a 0.82 ERA and a 12-1 record. Watch out for shortstop Selena Perez (1.598 OPS) at the plate and in the field.

No. 9 Poston Butte (12-2) at No. 8 Prescott (15-3)

Saturday at 10 a.m.

Poston Butte is a tough team to predict. The Broncos only lost two games all season, both to No. 2 Vista Grande, but they also played a weak schedule outside of those games.

Make no mistake, Poston Butte is athletic and has the ability to pull off an upset. Seniors Kayla Lopez and Dawn Morris can really hit, and Kyleigh Potter is a well-rounded veteran. Potter and Lopez are tied with a team-high five home runs.

No. 16 Apache Junction (11-7) at No. 1 Tucson Salpointe Catholic (20-0)

Saturday at 10 a.m.

Give the Prospectors credit for making the state playoffs. However, they have the unenviable task of playing the nationally-ranked Lancers in the first round.

Apache Junction has three players hitting better than .500 in Tristen Greer, Sarah Nieman and Addison Cooksey. A lineup that has 55 extra-base hits as a team will try to put a dent into the elite pitching of Salpointe Catholic, specifically senior Alyssa Aguilar (13-0, 1.17 ERA).

3A baseball

No. 16 Florence (11-5) at No. 1 Chandler Valley Christian (16-1)

Saturday at 11 a.m.

Florence has a matchup against a mighty No. 1 seed, in this instance Valley Christian. The Gophers had a poor strength of schedule, but they won eight of their last nine regular season games. That kind of winning can lead to confidence.

Junior Cade Stenson is having a stellar season for Florence with a slash line of .498/.597/.702, while senior Christopher Walter is hitting .411 and brings power with 11 extra-base hits.

2A softball

No. 8 Santa Cruz Valley (11-3) vs. No. 9 Chandler Prep (10-5)

Friday at 4 p.m. at Rose Mofford Sports Complex

It appears Santa Cruz softball is back, as this team is loaded with good young players. Their top seven hitters in OPS are all freshmen and sophomores.

Leading the way for an offense averaging 13.7 runs per game are freshman Aaliyah Bojorquez and sophomores Isabella Davis and Ylianna Velazco. Velazco leads the team with eight doubles and two home runs in 48 at-bats.

1A baseball

No. 7 Superior (8-5) vs. No. 10 Duncan (8-5)

Friday at 4 p.m. at Goodyear Ballpark

Superior normally wins games with its offense, and that’s largely due to the bats of junior Matthew Cruz and senior Nathan Duarte. Cruz is hitting .523 with a home run and 16 RBIs, Duarte has a .711 slugging percentage with eight doubles and a triple and Adam Navarrette is hitting .442 with a team-high 14 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.

No. 3 Ray (12-2) vs. No. 14 Bullhead City Mohave Accelerated (4-8)

Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Goodyear Ballpark

Ray’s only two losses of the season were to No. 8 Hayden, and they should be in contention for at least a berth in the semifinals. The Bearcats are led by the dynamic Derek Figueroa, a senior with a .661 on-base percentage, 29 runs scored, three doubles and four triples. Figueroa is also 4-0 with a 0.76 ERA on the mound.

1A softball

No. 5 Superior (7-4) vs. No. 12 Ray (4-8)

Friday at 8 p.m. at Rose Mofford Sports Complex

Superior’s Danika Bryant is one of the most dangerous hitters in 1A, slashing .516/.694/1.225 with six doubles, two triples and four homers. McKenna Duarte is hitting .486 with 13 extra-base hits. Ray has struggled mightily this season, but freshman Malena Goad (.894 OPS) has been a bright spot.

No. 3 San Manuel (12-5) vs. No. 14 Wellton Antelope (7-7)

Friday at 6 p.m. at Rose Mofford Sports Complex

San Manuel has five losses on its resume, but a closer look reveals all of those losses came against schools larger than 1A. The Miners were 9-0 against 1A opponents.

San Manuel Jazmyne Waddell’s stats are mind boggling. The junior is hitting .679 with 12 doubles, nine triples, six homers and 49 RBIs in 16 games.


Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at