You have to go all the way back to the 2005 season to find a year that the Mingus Union softball team has not gone to the playoffs, meaning that head coach John Brown had a streak to keep going in his first year as coach at Mingus Union.
Brown was able to do this after posting a 15-13 record, including 6-2 in Section-III and a No. 3 finish in the section. Overall, the Marauders earned themselves a No. 6 seed and a first round bye that has been fueled by a high-energy output, team camaraderie and high scoring innings.
The girls will be waiting to face either Safford or Window Rock High School. While any team that is in the tournament has the chance to beat a higher seeded team, on paper, Mingus should not have a problem with either of these teams.
More than likely, they will be playing Window Rock in the second round. The Safford Pirates barely made it into the tournament, earning a No. 22 seed. The Pirates finished the season as the sixth best team in Section-II and are coming off a 15-1 loss to No. 7 Snowflake.
While Safford strung together 12 wins through the season, they only picked up two wins against a team in the playoffs and that team was No. 16 Morenci. Every other top-24 they faced they lost to, most of the time by at least 10 points. The only other notable win the Pirates have is over Division-IV team Miami (Arizona), who will be in the D-IV tournament.
Window Rock is a different story. The Fighting Scouts ended their season 16-8 and finished No. 5 in Section-I. They ended the season with a 17-0 blowout of Ganado and won seven of their last 10 games, while picking up wins over Monument Valley, Chinle and Tuba City.
Now the Marauders play the waiting game. Regardless of which team makes it to the second round, Mingus should not have too much trouble with them. Brown forced the girls to have a tough schedule, including two tournaments where the team faced some of the top teams in both Arizona and California, preparing them for the playoffs.
The Marauders may have only won five games the first to months of the season, but once April began, Mingus Union won 10 contests and only lost one game, to Flagstaff, but redeemed themselves in their final game of the season with a 8-7 win over the Eagles.
The team does have one area of concern. Their mental game can be spotty at times. In nine games that were decided by five runs or less, the Marauders have a 4-5 record. Of those four wins, two involved them being down and battling back to claim the win. Their final game of the regular season was arguably Mingus' biggest and most important. Flagstaff, one of their rivals, had beaten the Marauders twice before their final meeting. On senior night, Mingus got up early by scoring five runs in the second and stayed up despite Flagstaff's comeback.
Aside from a suspect mental game at times, the girls have a strong team that is good on both offense and defense.
All of the Marauders can hit. That is evident by their .431 batting average and 335 hits in 777 at-bats through 28 games. Of those 335 hits, 208 have been RBI's and 17 home runs. Everyone contributes on offense and it is hard to single out any one or two people as "leaders" because you can look anywhere on the roster and find someone that adds something.
From seldom-used Shelby Hughes and her team leading four home runs, to Torey Gilles' 40 RBI's and 50 hits, the Marauders are a force. Plus, once Mingus finds its' groove or the crowd hears Brown yell two-out nightmare, the fans can expect their at-bat to be a long one with the girls either chipping away at a lead or extending their own.
While the Marauders may not have any one specific leader on offense, on the defense, pitcher Angelina Saucedo gets things started for Mingus and fuels her team. The senior pitcher sports a 3.71 ERA, and has struck out 178 of the 783 batters she has faced.
Of course, when other teams do earn hits, Angelina has a reliable infield and outfield to help her. Center fielder Bailey Mabery has tallied 23 put outs this season and almost always finds herself in the right spot to catch fly balls. In the infield, Torey and Catelyn, at first and second, respectively, have combined for 93 total put outs compared to eight errors.
With the boost in confidence from the Flagstaff game adding to a team that already seems to have found its stride, the Marauders should walk through either Safford or Window Rock and into the quarterfinals. If they do make it to the there, they could end up facing Winslow, the No. 3 team in D-III.
The girls will get things going on May 3 at 6 p.m., down in Phoenix at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex.