In the span of 30 minutes on Wednesday, Chaparral (Ariz.) High softball star Bryce Villalpando experienced the entire spectrum of emotions that accompany playoffs in scholastic sports, both saving her team's season then committing a strange and rare error that suddenly ended it.
Then, in the bottom of that same frame, Villalpando grabbed the ball that had just circuited its way through the infield to complete a key double play, notching the first two outs of the inning. She turned and threw the ball back to the pitcher ... and ended her team's season in the process.
As reported by the East Valley Tribune, Villalpando's harmless attempt to return a ball to the mound soared far over her pitcher's head, letting a game-winning run score for Oro Valley, all at the cost of an entire season of work for one of Arizona's most prestigious softball programs.
Needless to say, it's one of the most unique and heartbreaking season-ending errors registered in recent years.
"I guess I got a little too excited and threw it back to my pitcher …," Villalpando told the Tribune. "It happened so fast, I think she was not paying attention and I threw it a little harder than I should have, but …
"After winning the first couple of games, it got our confidence up. I really thought we were going to take it all this year. It's sad that it had to come down to that."
It's sad that a final ignominious error may come to be the lasting hallmark of Villalpando's impressive softball career, particularly because she had just made what seemed to be an inspiring memory only minutes before. In a steely at-bat with two outs in the top of the seventh, the first baseman fouled off multiple pitches before finally connecting on one and driving in a run that kept her team alive. Without that hit, she wouldn't have even been in the field in the bottom of the seventh.
That, of course, just makes what would normally be a harmless overthrow all the more difficult to take.
"I was right there, but mistakes happen," Chaparral pitcher Skylar Weinstein told the Tribune. "Sometimes the ball gets out of your hand, you know.
"There is always a state tournament next year. You always have to think positives, no negatives. You have to keep going."
- East Valley Tribune