By CASEY MUSE JR
After a promising non-conference start to the season, the Pima Community College softball team opened conference play with a split at Arizona Western College in Yuma.
The No. 18-ranked Aztecs were held scoreless in the first game, but rallied in the second to take a 5-4 victory.
In the first game, Pima struggled to get the bats going, managing just seven hits. Freshman Edith Prieto led the team at the plate, batting 2-for-3.
Sophomore Margarita Corona led the Aztecs back in the second contest, batting 3-for-4 and driving in two runs. Freshman Mandy Lorenson was the winning pitcher, allowing four runs while striking out seven.
The softball team began its 2016-2017 season in the Southern Nevada Kick-Off Classic on Jan. 27, winning three of five games.
The Aztecs are coming off a productive 2015-16 campaign that saw them finish with an overall record of 47-19-1.
Pima fought its way last season to the Region I Division II championship game, where it fell to Phoenix College by a final score of 11-3. The team will be looking this season to reclaim that level of success and take the next step.
In 67 games last season, the Aztecs scored 523 runs with a .397 batting average and a .472 on-base percentage. They also cracked 38 home runs last season.
Sophomore Courtney Brown will look to improve upon her team-high 97 hits and 75 runs. Brown had the opportunity to emerge into a leadership role her freshman season, so now there are no surprises about her capabilities.
Corona and fellow sophomore Bailey Critchlow each posted 80 hits and 59 runs last season.
Critchlow will also be asked step up in the pitching department for the Aztecs, and may be the team’s ace. She appeared in 31 games last season and posted a record of 19-8 with an overall ERA of 4.50.
Fellow sophomore Luisa F. Silvain, returning after 29 game appearances in 2016, will also have an opportunity to step up as a pitcher. Last year, she posted a record of five wins and two losses and an overall ERA of 4.68.
On defense, the Aztecs return all three base players.
Sophomore Amy Pacheco returns for first base after appearing in 29 games last season.
Sophomore Gabriela Trejo will return to second after appearing in 56 games last season. Fellow sophomore Larissa Rodriguez will be back at third after appearing in 43 games last season.
Familiarity with teammates should be a huge advantage for the Aztecs this spring. Pima will look for another successful season under Coach Armando Quiroz, who won his 400th career game last season.
It is all about taking it one game at a time for the Aztecs, who opened the season ranked No. 18 in the NJCAA Poll.
Feb 4: Glendale CC, West Campus, doubleheader, noon and 2 p.m.
Feb 7: at Mesa CC, doubleheader, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Feb 11: Yavapai College, West Campus, doubleheader, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.