Arizona Digest: Team AZ falls to California in GEICO national HS baseball championship game

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Mar 18, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions junior pitcher Cooper Neville (7) warms up before going up to bat against the Valor Christian Eagles at Arcadia High school baseball field. Mandatory Credit: Alex Gould-Arizona Republic
Mar 18, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions junior pitcher Cooper Neville (7) warms up before going up to bat against the Valor Christian Eagles at Arcadia High school baseball field. Mandatory Credit: Alex Gould-Arizona Republic

Arizona falls to California in national final

Arizona fell to California 16-7 Friday night in the final of the GEICO National High Baseball Tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Three defensive miscues in the second inning led to five California runs, giving it a 6-0 lead.

Cooper Neville, a shortstop from Glendale Mountain Ridge, hit a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the third for Arizona's first hit that cut the score to 6-2.

But California added two more runs in the bottom half of the inning, then built a 16-3 lead, before Arizona scored five runs in the sixth to make it more competitive. Arizona only had four hits in the game.

California hit four home runs in the game.

The team was comprised of top players who still have school eligibility left.

The championship game was televised on ESPNU.

Coyotes announce 6-game preseason schedule

The Coyotes released their preseason schedule for 2022 and, as expected, none of the games will be played in metro Phoenix as the team makes the transition to its new home at Arizona State.

There will be one game played in Arizona, however. The Coyotes will face off with Anaheim at TCC Arena in Tucson on Sept. 25. That's where their AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners play.

The complete schedule: Sept. 24, St. Louis (at Wichita, Kansas), 5 p.m.; Sept. 25, Anaheim (at Tucson), 2 p.m.; Sept. 27, Dallas (at Tulsa, Oklahoma), 5 p.m.; Sept. 28, at Anaheim, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Vegas, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7, at Vancouver, 7 p.m.

The NHL regular-season schedule is due to be announced in July.

Diggins-Smith earns spot on WNBA All-Star team

Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith earned a spot in this year’s WNBA All-Star Game, the league announced Tuesday.

Diggins-Smith, who ranks fourth in scoring among guards, was left off the starting lineup. She ranked fourth in fan voting for the All-Star game starters and third in voting from the media, but finished 14th in the voting done by WNBA players.

Jun 27, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz., U.S.; Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith (4) is defended by Indiana Fever guard Destanni Henderson (33) during the third quarter at Footprint Center.
Jun 27, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz., U.S.; Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith (4) is defended by Indiana Fever guard Destanni Henderson (33) during the third quarter at Footprint Center.

However, Diggins-Smith will represent the Mercury with her sixth appearance. She is one of only two players this season averaging over 18 points, five assists, and three rebounds. Her 18.8 points per game are the most in her career since 2014.

Mercury center Brittney Griner was previously named an honorary starter due to her wrongful detainment in Russia.

Mercury terminate Tina Charles' contract

The Phoenix Mercury announced Saturday that the team has terminated center Tina Charles’ contract. 

Charles signed a one-year deal with the Mercury as a free agent with $108,000 guaranteed. 

Tina Charles #31 of the Phoenix Mercury reacts to a foul call during the first half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on June 10, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Tina Charles #31 of the Phoenix Mercury reacts to a foul call during the first half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on June 10, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona.

“After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time. Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to our plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues for improvement,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a statement. 

The 11-year veteran ranked second on the team in scoring (17.3 points per game) and rebounding (7.3 rebounds per game). Charles averaged 33.1 minutes and was an asset to the frontcourt.  

The Mercury are set to play at Dallas at 5 p.m. on Saturday. 

— Jenna Ortiz

Rising continues slide in loss in Las Vegas

Phoenix Rising's midseason struggles continued Friday night in a 3-2 loss to the Las Vegas Lights at Cashman Field in Las Ve

Rising surrendered two first half goals, including an Alvaro Quezada crossbar bouncer at the 31-minute mark that gave the Lights a 1-0 lead, and couldn't maintain possession long enough to mount a sustained comeback.

Las Vegas held a 60-40 possession advantage for the match, keeping an aggressive Rising side at bay.

Phoenix was able to get shots on goal, however, and in a bit a good news for Rising, Santi Moar score his first goal of the season.

Last season’s leading scorer, Moar finished off his first of the season with a well-struck, first touch finish to the goalkeeper’s left side off a Marcus Epps cross in the 55th minute.

Aodhan Quinn scored his third goal in two games for Phoenix. 

Rising is back in action at Wild Horse Pass next Saturday, July 2. Kick off the Fourth of July weekend with the biggest fireworks celebration in the Valley, following the match against Orange County SC at 7:30 p.m.

— Staff reports

Coyotes to host NHL Draft Party at Gila Resort

Apr 23, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Nathan Smith (13) celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at Gila River Arena.
Apr 23, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Nathan Smith (13) celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at Gila River Arena.

The Arizona Coyotes will host an NHL Draft Party at Gila River Resorts & Casinos at Wild Horse Pass on Thursday, July 7. 

The event will be held in the Palo Verde Ballroom from 3-7 p.m. Admission to the party is free. 

In this year’s draft, the Coyotes are set to make the third overall pick, along with two other selections via past trades. The Coyotes will pick 27th overall and own the Colorado Avalanche's pick from the trade for goalie Darcy Kuemper. The Avalanche are up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final.

The draft will be held at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC, and will start at 4 p.m. on ESPN. 

Current Coyotes players are set to sign autographs, including forward Clayton Keller, defensemen Dysin Mayo, and Conor Timmins from 5-6 p.m. 

—Jenna Ortiz

ASU taps Megan Bartlett to take over Sun Devils softball program

Megan Bartlett has been named the head coach for the Arizona State softball program, the school announced on Wednesday night.

This past season Bartlett, as an assistant coach, helped lead unseeded Texas to its their first Women's College World Series appearance. She also spent five years as the head coach at Ball State and also had coaching stints at Loyola Chicago, Northern Illinois, DePaul and Purdue.

Bartlett was a four-year letter-winner at Notre Dame, helping the Irish to four consecutive NCAA regional appearances. The Terre Haute, Indiana, native also played professional softball in the National Pro Fastpitch league.

Bartlett succeeds Tricia Ford, who left the Sun Devils after the 2022 season to take over the Texas A&M program. Ford joined ASU for the 2017 season and was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2018, when ASU finished third in the Women's College World Series. She also was coach of the year in 2022 as ASU won the Pac-12 title and finished one win short of the College World Series.

—Staff report

Arizona State's Cohlton Schultz celebrates his victory over Oregon State's Gary Traub in the heavyweight class during the finals of the Pac-12 wrestling championships at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe on March 6, 2022.
Arizona State's Cohlton Schultz celebrates his victory over Oregon State's Gary Traub in the heavyweight class during the finals of the Pac-12 wrestling championships at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe on March 6, 2022.

Championship doubleheader created at Phoenix Raceway

The season finale for the ARCA Menards Series West is being moved up one day to Friday, Nov. 4, at Phoenix Raceway. This will give the track a championship doubleheader on that Friday, with the ARCA race followed at 7 p.m. by the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship race, the Lucas Oil 150.

Between those races, the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series will conduct practice sessions, placing four series on track that day.

“This creates an incredible value for race fans on Championship Friday,” raceway President Julie Giese said in a news release. “Being able to see four series in action provides a power-packed ticket that will keep our fans thrilled throughout the day.”

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series West will hold practice sessions on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 3. Admission to those practices is free.

—Staff report

Arizona State Sun Devils swimmer Grant House celebrates after the 200-yard medley relay at the NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships at McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta on March 23, 2022.
Arizona State Sun Devils swimmer Grant House celebrates after the 200-yard medley relay at the NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships at McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta on March 23, 2022.

ASU swimmer Grant House named CoSIDA academic All-American

Arizona State swimmer Grant House was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America first team. House, a redshirt senior from Maineville, Ohio, had a 4.0 GPA this season while majoring in clinical exercise science. He is just one of six swimmers to earn first-team honors.

He was an All-American in the 200 free, 400 free relay, 800 free relay, 200 free relay and 200 medley relay. House also set new program records this season in the 100 free, 200 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 800 free relay and 200 medley relay.

Former ASU assistant Kirakossian new UCLA head golf coach

UCLA has announced Armen Kirakossian as its new head men’s golf coach. Kirakossian comes to UCLA from Arizona State, where he spent the last five seasons, two as associate head coach and three as an assistant.

Arizona State associate head coach Armen Kirakossian, left, talks with David Puig during the 2022 NCAA men's golf championship at Grayhawk Golf Club. Kirakossian is the new head coach at UCLA.
Arizona State associate head coach Armen Kirakossian, left, talks with David Puig during the 2022 NCAA men's golf championship at Grayhawk Golf Club. Kirakossian is the new head coach at UCLA.

Prior to coaching at ASU, Kirakossian was an assistant coach at Pepperdine from 2015-17. He also has head coaching experience. Before that, he was the head coach at his alma mater, Texas Pan American (UTPA). He also served as a volunteer assistant coach at UTPA in 2012-13 prior to being hired as head coach in August 2014.

"Armen brings a wealth of championship-level success, having helped produce some of the top amateur golfers in the nation," UCLA's Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond said. "His ability to connect and develop student athletes has made him one of the top assistant coaches in the country, and I'm excited to welcome him to Westwood!"

Kirakossian becomes the sixth head coach in the program's history.

"None of this would have been possible without all the people who believed in me and gave me chances along the way, shaping me into the coach I am today, especially Matt Thurmond," Kirakossian said.

—Golfweek

Former ASU golfer 1st woman to win DP World Tour event

One week after the women played for an historic $10 million purse at the U.S. Women’s Open, Linn Grant made another leap for the game by becoming the first woman to win on the DP World Tour.

Grant, 22, crushed the field of 78 men and women by nine strokes with a closing 64 at the Scandinavian Mixed, hosted by Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam in Tylösand, Sweden. The nearest woman finished 14 back.

Beating the men, she said, was most important.

“All week I just felt like it’s the girls against the guys,” she said, “and whoever picks up that trophy represents the field.”

Grant, a former Arizona State standout, came into the final round with a two-stroke lead and birdied five of the first six holes at Halmstad Golf Club to begin her tear. She posted 26 birdies and an eagle in her 24-under performance in front of massive crowds. Her nine-stroke victory is the largest on the DP World Tour so far this season.

Swedish co-host Stenson, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 2016 British Open, finished second along with Scotland’s Marc Warren, who closed with a 65. Stenson shot 70 on Sunday.

The unique event, co-sanctioned by the LET and DP World Tour, features two different sets of tees for the men and women, who competed for the same $2 million purse. A total of 30 Swedes took part in the competition. Grant, who lives about an hour away from the course, embraced Swedish icon Sorenstam after her extraordinary triumph.

Grant has now won three times in six starts this season, including her last event, The Mithra Belgian Ladies Open in late May. Grant won $30,000 for that victory in Belgium, and $319,717 dollars for the Scandinavian Mixed.

“I just hope that people recognize women’s golf, more sponsors go to LET than the men’s tour,” said Grant. “Hopefully this pumps up the women’s game a little bit more.”

—Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek

New Glendale-based bull riding team fills out roster for 2022 season

The Arizona Ridge Riders, among the new Professional Bull Riders Team Series franchises that begin competition next month, recently conducted a league draft to form their team for the upcoming season. 

The Ridge Riders landed the sixth overall pick of all eligible PBR competitors. Luciano De Castro of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the 2015 PBR Brazil Rookie of the Year and series champion, was the Ridge Riders' first pick. De Castro, 26,  has qualified for four World Finals since his U.S. debut in 2017, and finished the 2022 season at No. 4 in the world standings.

Other riders chosen by Arizona included Mauricio Moreira of Sao Paulo, Eduardo Aparecido of Gouvelandia, Brazil, Chase Dougherty of Decatur, Texas and Marco Eguchi of Poa, Brazil. 

"We're so excited to work with those guys. And I think they're really excited to be on our team," technical coach Paulo Cimber said. 

Team manager Colby Yates said the Ridge Riders have a 12-rider roster, with seven protected athletes and five on a developmental squad. 

The first PBR Team Series event is July 25-26 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with the Ridge Riders' initial home competition at Gila River Arena Oct. 14-16. 

—Jose M. Romero

ASU's McCormack to head Johns Hopkins lacrosse

Arizona State lacrosse will have to look for a new leader after head coach Tim McCormack accepted the head coaching position at Johns Hopkins on Tuesday. 

McCormack took ASU’s young program to new heights in three seasons, including a trip to the Pac-12 championship game this season. Under McCormack, ASU beat five ranked opponents, including four during the 2022 season.  

The Sun Devils compiled an 11-8 record, a program-best. The veteran group ranked third in the Pac-12 with 13.21 goals per game. 

McCormack takes over after longtime coach Janine Tucker announced her retirement. 

—Jenna Ortiz

ASU women's basketball adds another transfer

The ASU basketball team announced Tuesday that it had added former Kentucky sophomore guard Treasure Hunt to its roster.

Hunt started 29 games for the Wildcats last season, her second with the program.

She averaged 6.9 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game and 1.4 assists. 

Sun Devils women's basketball adds 5 transfers in offseason

Morasha Wiggins, who was the 2021 Michigan AP All-State D1 co-Player of the Year, has transferred from North Carolina to Arizona State.
Morasha Wiggins, who was the 2021 Michigan AP All-State D1 co-Player of the Year, has transferred from North Carolina to Arizona State.

The Arizona State women’s basketball has undergone a roster overhaul this offseason with four players from last season’s team transferring to other programs. However, new head coach Natasha Adair has added five transfers since being hired on March 27, with perhaps the most interesting addition being North Carolina’s Morasha Wiggins.

The sophomore wing averaged only 8:26 minutes in 21 games with UNC as a freshman. Wiggins was a highly regarded high school recruit and shared 2021 Michigan AP All-State D1 Player of the Year honors during a shortened senior season at Kalamazoo Central High School in which she averaged 24.3 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

ASU added two graduate transfers in center Kayla Mokwuah and guard Lauryn Satterwhite. Mokwuah spent the last two seasons at TCU and started nine games last season. Satterwhite, a Surprise Valley Vista graduate, was team captain at Northwestern and had a career season in an elevated role with an average of 7.41 points through 27 games. 

Point guard Tyi Skinner followed Adair from Delaware to ASU. Under Adair, Skinner was one of the top producers on offense for Delaware with 12.8 points per game. Skinner led the team in 3-point shooting with a 35.3 shooting percentage and 66 made 3s.

ASU will have incoming freshmen Trayanna Crisp from Phoenix PHH Prep and forward Journey Thompson from McMurray, Pennsylvania.

—Jenna Ortiz

Central Arizona baseball repeats as national champions

Making its third straight appearance in the NJCAA DI Baseball World Series championship game, Central Arizona defeated Cowley 4-2 on Saturday night to clinch the Vaqueros' second national title in three years.

Shane Spencer, who pitched two innings in relief in the game that got Central Arizona to the finale, scattered 9 hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings to earn the win, with Drew Sommers pitching the final 2 2/3 innings, striking out five of the 10 batters he faced.

Offensively, the Vaqueros, who lost the first game of the tournament before reeling of five consecutive wins, took advantage of Cowley errors in the first two innings to score three runs, and tacked on an insurance run on a Dusty Garcia solo homer in the third.

—Staff report

Last weekend, Phoenix College finished off a perfect 5-0 run through the NJCAA Division II softball tournament to clinch its second consecutive title, defeating Murray State of Oklahoma 13-5. The second-seeded Bears outscored their opponents by a 38-12 margin, and hit three home runs including a grand slam in the final. Brianna Hardy pitched all seven innings for the win, surpassing 400 strikeouts on the year in the process and becoming the first junior college pitcher to reach 100 career wins with one school. Hardy earned tournament MVP honors while Ali Ashner was named Offensive Player of the Tournament.

Earlier in May, the South Mountain Community College men's golf team, led by sophomore Cecil Belisle, won the NJCAA Division II national championship in Joplin, Missouri. The Cougars finished the four-day event at +31 to win by 19 strokes and capture the eighth national title in program history. Belisle took medalist honors by shooting even par over the 72 holes.

Guaranteed Rate extends bowl  sponsorship 

Guaranteed Rate has extended its role in a multi-year agreement with the Fiesta Bowl Organization to continue the Guaranteed Rate Bowl for the next four years.

The bowl is the only bowl game between teams from the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences.

In addition to naming rights, Guaranteed Rate's fully integrated partnership includes digital and social media content, in-stadium exposure and on-site activation at the game in the exclusive live broadcast window on ESPN and ESPN Radio.

—Jeremy Cluff

Chandler's Pikulthong threepeats at Golfweek South West Junior

Anawin Pikulthong earned an invitation to Golfweek International Junior Invitational by winning the boys' division of the Golfweek South West Junior at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club on Sunday. It was the third consecutive victory in this event for Pikulthong, who plays for Chandler Hamilton High School and has committed to Arizona State.

Trailing by seven heading into the final round, Pikulthong relied on his previous experiences and some luck to close the gap.

“I didn’t play too well in the first round, but I found something on the range (last) night,” Pikulthong said. “This morning came and I tested it out. … I hit a couple of good shots in the first few holes and from then on I started to blend confidence and make some putts.”

Out in 3 under, Pikulthong kept that score until he eagled back-to-back par 4s. The par-4 14th was drivable for some in the field, and after driving the green, Pikulthong nailed his eagle putt to move to 5 under. On the 430-yard par-4 15th, Pikulthong holed out from 186 yards to make another jump towards his three-peat.

Bookmarking the deuces with birdies, Pikulthong went from 3 under to 8 under in a blink of an eye. Closing it out with pars on 17 and 18, Pikulthong vaulted himself from fourth to first for his third straight victory in this event.

—Brayden Conover, Golfweek

Arizona Cardinals partner with Mesa food bank

Cardinals Charities announced Monday it has partnered with Albertsons/Safeway to donate 200,000 meals to the United Food Bank in Mesa at an event on Tuesday from 3-4 p.m. 

Cardinals offensive linemen Kelvin Beachum, D.J. Humphries, Justin Murray and Eric Smith, linebacker Dennis Gardeck, wide receiver Antoine Wesley, team mascot Big Red, Cardinals Cheerleaders, team staff and Albertsons/Safeway employees will help pack meals and present a $40,000 check for the 200,000 meals to benefit the food bank.  

“The Cardinals are thrilled to align with Albertsons/Safeway and United Food Bank to highlight food insecurity while supporting and feeding those in need within our Arizona communities,” Cardinals Senior Vice President of Business Development Steve Ryan said in a press release. 

“Pooling resources with trusted partners in support of Arizonans is very important to our team and allows us to reciprocate the loyalty and support this community and our fans consistently exhibit.”

This marks the Cardinals’ second food bank meal donation of this magnitude within that past year. After Zach Ertz was traded to the Cardinals last season on Oct. 15, his Zach Ertz Family Foundation and Gilbert-based Athlete’s Corner helmed a similar donation drive to food banks across the state, which delivered 5000 meals per Cardinals touchdown scored during their Score For More campaign.

—Dana Scott

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Digest: Team AZ falls to California in national HS baseball final