Mingus Union High School’s softball team displayed characteristics typical of a team capable of contending for a championship on Tuesday, April 3.
The Marauders [9-6, 6-3 Grand Canyon] bounced back from a division loss the day prior and got key contributions from players who do not usually stand out in a 3-1 win over second-place Coconino High School.
Last year they finished third to last in what was Division II Section II with only two wins, but are now taking Division 4A and their region by storm. The win strengthened their place at the top of the pile in their region with three games left.
“We shouldn’t be here, we got beat up bad last year,” Mingus head coach John Brown said. “And a lot of teams don’t expect us to play this well and we believe in it, sometimes that’s all we’ve got is the belief in it, so the underdog role isn’t a bad place as long as you accept it.”
The game turned out to be a pitcher’s duel; both Marauders senior Krista Earl and Coconino sophomore Kaitlyn Snopek found their way out of jams more than once.
Earl and the Mingus defense stranded five Panther runners in scoring position while Snopek and company left two Marauders on.
“I felt really good about my pitching today. My pitches, all of them were working whenever they needed to,” Earl said. “It also helped that the balls that did get hit the defense was playing perfectly behind me if I did miss a pitch, so I had complete confidence going up there.”
Coconino got on the board first in the fourth inning on a two-out infield single. Mingus had a chance to respond in the bottom half of the frame, but sophomore Ashley McCracken grounded out on the first pitch she saw, ending the inning.
However in the decisive sixth inning, things changed. Senior Morgan Mabery singled to lead things off before a walk and another single put Snopek in a bases-loaded, no-out jam she would not survive.
Two outs later, McCracken was up to bat again, this time taking a four-pitch walk to force in the tying run.
“I knew that I had to have a good hit to the runners so I didn’t want to swing at any bad pitches,” McCracken said.
Then sophomore Bailey Brown, who has hit .286 with just six RBI all season, hit a two-RBI single to give the Marauders the lead with only three outs left for the visitors.
“I was thinking about my team, that was the only thing on my mind right there, was I knew I had to do it for my team, I had to bring in runs,” Bailey Brown said.
On Monday, April 3, Mingus lost 6-1 to Greenway High School, and the team’s spirit, a big part of its game, was lacking at the start of Tuesday’s contest.
“I think we came in a little drained today, the energy wasn’t there. He [John Brown] had a talk with us to get us to pump it up,” Bailey Brown said. “We did a good job of bringing it back and getting it together.”
Earl went the distance, giving up zero earned runs on four hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Mabery, Brown and juniors Nikki Zielinski and Kaycee Williams each finished with one hit.
On Thursday, April 6 Mingus and Coconino faced off again. The Marauders gave up a six-run seventh inning to drop a 10-9 decision before losing 11-1 to division rival Cactus High School on senior day, Friday, April 7.
Mabery, Earl, Anissa Zorillo, Maliah Zillmer and Caitlynn Schilling were honored after the game’s end.
“I’m excited but sad not to see my friends,” Zillmer said. “It’ll be weird not coming back.”
On Tuesday, April 11, the Marauders completed their season sweep of Flagstaff High School. They won 16-6, responding to a 4-1 deficit after the third inning with 15 runs across the final four frames.
Mingus has just two games left in the regular season, a doubleheader against last place Lee Williams High School at 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. In order to win the Grand Canyon Region championship, Coconino and Prescott High Schools must lose at least two of their remaining games.