By James Kelley
Photo by Daniel Gaona
So it has come down to this.
The Pima Community College softball team faces a murderer’s row schedule to close the season, including four games against its “natural rival” Yavapai College, in its bid to host Regionals.
On April 6, the No. 12 Aztecs (47-7, 18-4 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) took a pair of games at Arizona Western College, 3-2 and 8-5.
No. 4 Yavapai also swept its foe, keeping the two in a tie for first place.
“They’re huge, we’ve got to keep pace with Yavapai,” head coach Armando Quiroz said. “We’re right there, neck and neck.”
The doubleheader against the Matadors was so big that Pima pitched its ace, sophomore Jordan Trujillo (24-3) in both games. Sophomore shortstop Kaity Ingram hit three RBIs and freshman infielder Mercedes Garcia had a luxurious afternoon, getting three walks, going 3-4, scoring three runs and hitting a double.
The Arizona Western games started a rough 10-game stretch to close the season for the Aztecs as they try to clinch home field for the playoffs.
Pima hosts Yavapai on April 13, then travels to Prescott on April 27 to make up games that were twice postponed. In between those doubleheaders, the Aztecs play two teams they have gone 3-4 against.
“I think there will be some really important last few games and it’s going to be crucial whether we win or not,” Jordan Trujillo said. “We’re excited to play and ready, it’s going to be good.”
Yavapai, the preseason No. 1 and defending National Champion, is chockfull of Pima ties.
The Roughriders are coached by University of Arizona alumnus and Tucson native Stacy Iveson. Coincidentally she also coached Pima before Quiroz took over.
Iveson won two National Championships at Pima in 2004 and 2006. Also, the team’s hitting, infielder and strength coach, Lisa Parks, played for Pima in 2004.
“They’re our natural rival, but we like to play the good teams and I am sure they do too,” Quiroz said.
Roughrider sophomore infielder Molly Brossart, who is No. 8 in the nation in home runs and No. 10 in RBIs, defected to Yavapai after playing for the Aztecs last year.
It may not have been that big a loss for the Aztecs, as freshman Charissa Ballesteros replaced her at first base and is now No. 3 in the nation with 60 RBIs.
Jordan Trujillo wouldn’t go so far as to call Yavapai the Aztecs’ rival but does look forward to the games. The two teams are tied in the loss column but Yavapai has played two more games.
“We want to play them and that’s who we are excited to play,” she said.
On April 17 Pima travels to Central Arizona College, which it split twice with. Then on April 20, Pima hosts Eastern Arizona College. The EAC Lady Monsters swept the Aztecs.
Pima closes the season with a road trip to Yavapai on April 27. Despite the recent domination by Pima and Yavapai, Central is the ACCAC traditional power, with 12 national championships since 1984.
“When you play in this league there’s no soft touches,” Quiroz said. “It’s brutal for everybody, it’s brutal for our opponents.”
The top four teams in the division make it to the playoffs hosted by the top seed. After Yavapai (20-4 ACCAC) and PCC, Central (15-9) is third and Western (16-10) is fourth.
“It’s a season of ups and downs and hopefully we are on the way up again but 47-7 is nothing to sneeze at,” Quiroz said. “The league is so tough that you can’t run and hide from anybody, no matter how good your record is.”
Last year Yavapai narrowly won the league’s only Nationals bid at home against Pima before a wild crowd. The average high for Tucson on May 7 is 17 degrees hotter than Prescott.
“That’s all we’re playing for,” Quiroz said about home field advantage. “It doesn’t assure you of anything, but it sure gives you an advantage.”
On April 3, the Aztecs split with Glendale Community College, but the games were non-conference. Saturday afternoon. Pima won the first, 5-2 and lost the second 9-4.
Jordan Trujillo earned the win in the first game, striking out seven and giving up five hits and freshman Adrianna Garcia (16-4) lost the second.
Sophomore catcher Melina Trujillo, went 5-7 in the doubleheader, driving in three RBIs. Freshman first baseman Charissa Ballesteros went 3-6, including two doubles, two runs and three RBIs.