Sometimes coaches are nice to their players. Other times, they like to match their teams up against stronger teams, knowing that once the team begins playing conference games, the opponents they face will not be as tough as the ones they already faced.
"Those pitchers that we faced [at the Tournament of Champions] are nothing like we've faced down here," said assistant coach Maranda Tapia. "They're throwing 60-plus miles an hour, and a lot of our girls made contact, so there's a really good plus. One of the teams we faced, I think they were runner-ups to the 5A state champions, like two years in a row, and we played one of our better games against them. I thought that was an accomplishment on our part, being from such a small town."
Marauders softball traveled to Bullhead City to participate in the Tournament of Champions, squaring off against teams from higher conferences in Arizona, as well as a team from California. There was one familiar face in the mix Flagstaff High School, a team that Mingus Union will face in an upcoming conference game. While the team, which has a new coaching staff and many players are trying out new positions, learned a good amount from the tournament, it did not leave Bullhead City with a win.
"Our record didn't reflect how well we did," Tapia said. "We lost every game, but we definitely played some higher-caliber teams that we're not used to seeing down here in this small community that we have, but our last game was against a local team, Flagstaff, and we took them into nine innings, I believe, and they ended up beating us in nine innings. But it was a really good game and we learned a lot from our team. We're new so we're learning and they're learning. I think it was a good experience for us."
The Marauders outfielder Kailna Boysen left the tournament happy with the team's progress so far despite not picking up a victory.
"Overall we did pretty good, but we have a lot of things to work on, but that's good, so now we know ... It was a good wake-up call because its going to help us work on stuff that we need to work on, since we wont be playing that good of teams in the season"
Mingus was edged by conference foe Flagstaff 8-7, but the Marauders took the Eagles into the ninth inning before dropping the close game.
"[We can beat them by] jumping on them quicker," junior second baseman Torey Gilles. "We were losing 6-0 all the way up till like the second or third inning. I think we should have jumped on them a lot sooner than we did and it would have put us in a better position, rather than going to the ninth inning back-and-forth ... I think we just need to jump on them sooner"
The Eagles jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Marauders found their swing and in the third stanza, scoring two runs and followed that up with three more in the fourth. After a scoreless inning through the fifth, Mingus knotted the game at six and was followed by two more scoreless innings as the Marauders took the Eagles into extra innings. Mingus was able to secure one more run before Flagstaff stepped up to the plate, scoring two runs and securing the victory.
"We didn't start off 'up," Boysen said. "We didn't play our best the first couple innings and then once we realized that they were beating us and we didn't want to lose, then we started playing really good."
The coaching staff recognized that the team does need to work on the mental side of things since the talent is already there.
"They're learning that they need to play up," Tapia said. "I don't want to bash on some of the other local teams around here, but they're not at a good athletic ability as some of our girls are here. So we need to learn to play up, and not play down to their level. I think that's going to be one of the biggest challenges they're going to face. There are some teams that give us a pretty good run for our money and we're excited to play those teams... probably Flagstaff, and Bradshaw should be a good game and then Prescott, because we lost to them at the beginning of the season, so we're excited to play them again."
The Marauders return home March 21 for their first conference game of the season against Red Rock High School at 3:45 p.m. at Mingus Union High School.