The Academy of Tucson softball team has never posted a winning season, and things were so bad for the Lynx that in 2010, it didn’t even field a team.
After back-to-back one-win seasons in the years to follow, the program was in danger of folding.
Then coach Bill Moten stepped in, and sophomore ace Caitlin Doster stepped up.
Now, Academy of Tucson (11-5) is six games over .500 with seven games remaining. The Lynx can secure their first-ever winning season today by beating Sells Baboquivari, a team they trounced 13-0 earlier this season.
The Academy is ranked No. 13 in Division IV.
“It’s been good pitching and good hitting, but the neat thing about us has been we have four coaches,” said Moten, who is in his second year with the team. “That has made all the difference in the world. When you’re building a program, not any one coach can come close.”
Moten knows: He has coached at Desert Christian, Catalina, Pima College and most recently St. Augustine Catholic. He arrived at Academy of Tucson last season hoping to change a culture and the program’s fortunes.
The team won three games in Moten’s first year, its best single-season total since 2008.
Heading into this season, expectations remained minimal — to field a team. That was until the Academy matched last year’s win total in the first three games of the season.
“They have a dedication far beyond any team I’ve ever coached at any level,” Moten said. “They’re not afraid to accept the fact that they can win.”
The Lynx have been led on the field by Doster, who is responsible for 13 of Academy’s 14 wins over the past two years.
Doster (11-3) has developed into one of the division’s most dominant strikeout artists. She has sent 121 batters back to the dugout in 71 innings, numbers that lead Section II, and the fourth-best total in the division. Doster’s 0.10 ERA is the lowest in Southern Arizona.
Moten praised Doster’s dedication. In addition to her pitching, she is batting .444 and has six RBIs and six doubles.
Doster was already receiving attention from colleges before she pitched a no-hitter in a 12-1 win over Patagonia last week.
“I’ve been playing since I was 4-1/2,” Doster said. “Softball has always been my thing. Nonstop, every day, all day.”
While Doster’s dealing has kept teams off the scoreboard, the Academy’s offense has been laying it on opposing pitchers. Center fielder Kerri Anderson leads the team in hits, runs, triples and homers. She put in major swing work over the offseason, and as a result her power and production are on the rise.
“Freshman year, I wasn’t that great at hitting,” said Anderson, a three-sport athlete. “It was hard for me to hit off the machine. Last year, we got Coach Moten, and he’s really helped me with that. This year, I’m the best I’ve ever been.”
The junior is part of an offense that has scored nine or more runs in nine of their 11 wins this season.
None of the team’s success would have been possible if senior catcher Shyanne Novak, whom Moten credits for the reboot, hadn’t been around three years ago to help keep the team together.
“I love playing softball,” Novak said. “We wanted to come back and redeem ourselves for some bad seasons. Making the tournament would be a great way to go out.”