Lady Mats look for 4th playoff berth in 5 years as new season begins in Silver State
Yuma, Arizona – January 24, 2013 -- Arizona Western College is proud to announce that the AWC Softball team will officially open their 2013 regular season schedule tomorrow morning, Friday, January 25th in Las Vegas, Nevada, by taking part in the two-day CSN Softball Kickoff Classic hosted by the College of Southern Nevada. The Lady Matadors will play four games over the two days of the tournament, starting with the team that finished #1 in the NJCAA’s final regular season poll of 2012, Salt Lake Community College.
After leading the Lady Matadors to a pair of Region I Playoff berths in her first two years at the helm, Nikki Bethurum has shaken up the 2013 roster after a disappointing 2012 season that saw the team finish under the 30-win mark for the first time since 2008. Because of the fact that the Lady Mats missed the postseason for the first time in four seasons, while there are nine sophomores coming back from the 2012 squad, there were very few starting jobs assured. All-ACCAC outfielder Courtnie Ploesch (PLOWSH (rhymes with ‘gauche’) is again the leader of the Lady Matadors’ outfield, while fellow returners Lauren Miranda and Morgan Paul have opportunities to secure starting spots. On the infield, Yuma natives Alex Roman and Myliah Ramirez have worked to secure starting spots at the corners (3rd and 1st base, respectively), but still have plenty of young freshmen battling them for time. Fellow sophomore infielders Breanna Delgadillo and Abrianna Palacio have faced similar challenges in trying to keep spots in the middle infield, while 2012 backup middle infielder (and Kofa High alum) Madison Tracy has tried to show Bethurum that she deserves to start as well. Meanwhile, behind the plate, Savanna Baggett takes over the starting duties from last year’s leader, Tori Rich.
Who are the young freshmen that are pushing the incumbents for these starting jobs? In the outfield, Paul and Miranda have been pushed by Cibola High alum Mariah Caro as well as Golden Stater Robyn Alvara, who has also challenged Ramirez at first base. Behind the dish, Baggett will train newcomer April Marquez on the college version of the catcher position, but may also spend time in the same infield with her, since Marquez has also made a strong case for time at 3rd base with Roman. In the middle of the infield, it’s been a populated race, with Delgadillo, Palacio and Tracy feeling the heat of two up-and-coming freshmen, Samantha Mendoza and Gila Ridge High alum Summer Ehrig.
On the mound, there are no incumbents remaining from last year’s staff, and that has created a new enthusiasm as well as a hotly contested race for the ‘ace’ title. Four freshmen will all see time on the bump. Briana VanSickle and Hayley Miller have secured the starting spots going into the season, but Cibola High alum Jackie Pierson and Californian Jessica Leitner have different skill sets from the other two and will be right there to pick up for them.
The Lady Mats will play a pair of games on Friday, facing off against SLCC at 11:30AM & El Paso Community College at 4:30PM. Saturday, the Lady Mats will face two more tough teams: perennial Region XVIII powerhouse North Idaho College at 11:30AM; and then Chipola College from Florida (who wound up 4th in the final poll of last season) at 2PM (all times listed are Arizona time). The Lady Matadors will come home after the tournament and prepare for next weekend’s Great Western Shootout, which will feature 9 teams from three different time zones for a three-day tournament that will be played at both Joe Henry Park (North 23rd Avenue & West Colorado Street in Yuma (near 1st Street & Avenue B)) and the AWC Softball Field on the main campus (2020 South Avenue 8E in Yuma). The Lady Mats will play 8 games over the length of the tournament, which happens Thursday through Saturday, January 31st through February 2nd. Fans looking to obtain Great Western Shootout schedules and/or 2013 AWC Softball schedules can get them on the AWC Athletics website (www.azwestern.edu/athletics).