By STEVE CHOICE
People might suspect that the baseball and softball diamonds at Pima Community College’s West Campus lay dormant during the offseason.
But those suspicions would be off base.
The two squads can be found between the lines this time of year, practicing and playing exhibition games to keep their skills sharp and allow coaches a valuable look at their players.
“These fall practices are a necessity, and absolutely a positive thing,” said head softball coach Armando Quiroz. “We need this because we have to find out the culture of our team, and figure out the strengths and weaknesses we have.
“Playing 19 games like this, we get to experiment and see a lot of things.”
Though they’re not playing for keeps, Quiroz is aware of how much his players want to win the exhibition contests.
“We say to the team, ‘Winning’s not the thing here; we’re trying to build the team,’” he said. “But once the games start, that competitiveness takes over.
“Yeah, we’re trying to build, but we’re also trying to win. That competitiveness never goes away. It’s kind of like spring training, but you still don’t want to lose.”
Luckily for them, losing isn’t something Quiroz’s players have had to deal with yet this fall, going undefeated in six tries.
The PCC baseball team has also been getting in some fall reps, both in practices and exhibition games. Freshman shortstop Devon Carrillo definitely sees the value in it.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Carrillo said. “The sophomores really help us out a lot by showing us how coach (Jason) Hisey wants stuff to be and what’s expected of us.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Keith Zuniga echoed his teammate’s thoughts.
“We’re able to help out the freshmen as far as showing them what coach wants, and just getting them more familiar with the college game.”
Sophomore hurler Yvette Alvarez is another Aztec who appreciates the opportunity to help her coaches mentor new teammates.
“We’ve been providing some good leadership to the freshmen,” she said. “Just kind of showing them what the expectations are at this level and stuff.”
Freshman catcher and infielder Danielle Stensby says the extra time has helped her get accustomed to the added pressures of college ball.
“I was nervous at first,” she said. “It was nice to be able to get the jitters out in an exhibition game.”
The Aztecs will get the opportunity to play a Division I team on Oct. 6-7, as they hit the road for four games against the University of Texas at El Paso.
Fans hoping to catch the team at home can do so on Sept. 29, as PCC takes on the New Mexico All-Stars, a club team.
Pima will also compete in the University of Arizona’s Fall Classic at Hillenbrand Stadium on Oct. 12-14.
The Aztecs are scheduled to play the UA and the University of New Mexico at the tournament, among other teams.
The baseball team will next be at home on Sept. 29 to take on the Albuquerque (N.M.) Baseball Academy squad.
For full schedules and more information on fall baseball and softball, visit www.pima.edu/current-students/athletics.