With a completely healthy and eligible squad for 2017, the Mingus Union High School softball team is gearing up for a big improvement from 2016.
The Marauders, who boast a wealth of experience and key additions to the lineup, are poised to do better than their 6-16 record from a year ago.
“We expect a lot out of this year,” senior catcher and captain Morgan Mabery said. “I think we can get further than ever before. We have more talent than we’ve ever had and I’m more excited than I’ve ever been.”
The team’s strengths are not centered in one place. For the first time in years, according to head coach John Brown, the team has more than one pitcher, something that will be key to its success.
“It’s extremely important,” Brown said. “If someone is having a bad day or not feeling well, they’re not tasked with being the only one.”
The Marauders bats are strong, and they’ll be running hard on the base paths, too.
“I think we have a tremendous amount of hitting capability, we’re a very offensive team,” Brown said. “We play a lot of aggressive softball, with very aggressive base running.”
What puts Mingus ahead of the curve is that it does not have to work on fundamentals at the beginning of the season, the players already have them. They can just work on conditioning and team concepts.
“In every facet of the game we have a lot of talent,” Brown said. “We kind of play the game better than most teams.”
Brown said that the team is so experienced because about 80 percent of its members play softball year-round. The only question will be to take the group of players, who play for two different teams in the offseason, and turn them into a team.
“The weakness will be figuring out how to gel them,” Brown said. “Get that team-first mentality and make sure they put the team first.”
Senior pitcher Krista Earl believes that the team is already well on its way to accomplishing that.
“I feel like we’re bonding more than in the past,” Earl said.
Marred with injury in 2016, the team returns all of its players healthy and adds two transfers who were ineligible last year: Junior third baseman Nikki Zielinski and junior pitcher Kaycee Williams.
Brown said that the team has set a goal of winning the 4A Grand Canyon Region, and its two biggest roadblocks will be rival Flagstaff High School and a talented Bradshaw Mountain High School.
“We have a lot of girls who love to play the game and put in the extra work,” Earl said. “The girls are willing to do the work to get to State.”
The Marauders take the field for the first time at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Combs High School. They will dive into region play in their home debut at 3:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, against Flagstaff High School.