As the third-smallest school in Division III, the Benson softball team is used to being an underdog.

In fact, the Bobcats are comfortable playing under the radar.

“We love playing bigger schools, because we’re ‘Little Benson, where are they on the map?,’” said Lexi Adams, a senior first baseman. “It just proves we can play with the big dogs.”

So comfortable, the 14th-seeded Bobcats are riding a six-game winning streak heading into tonight’s state semifinals matchup against No. 2 Winslow, a 29-1 team which has reached the state finals in each of the past five seasons and beat the Bobcats earlier this season.

The Star recently caught up with the Bobcats (23-8) as they prepared for the semifinals to learn more about why they have a chance of winning a state title.

Senior leadership

In Benson’s first week of practice, Adams, Kendra Behr and Sami Rust talked about what kind of leaders they wanted to be.

The trio of seniors decided to lead by example, bypassing the vocal leadership role.

Coach Manny Ellsworth feels the decision has paid off.

“The seniors are in charge of the team,” he said, “They know how to run things.”

Improved defense

With such a young team at the beginning of the season, the Bobcats were still trying to figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle would fit.

Soon after the 13-2 loss to Winslow, in which Benson committed four errors, Ellsworth changed up his defensive alignment.

Since then, the Bobcats have been playing better team defense, and Adams believes it’s one of the main reasons why the team struggled earlier in the season.

“You can only have so many errors until it starts to cost you games,” Adams said. “Now, we’ve jelled. The girls have learned their new positions.”

Star power

Behr is Benson’s ace and won a state championship during her freshman season.

Ellsworth said it’s important for her to have a good game if the Bobcats want to win.

Behr (20-8) has a 2.58 ERA and has struck out 168 batters in 160ª innings pitched. Also the team’s slugger, Behr has driven in 51 runs – including seven this postseason – and launched nine homers.

“She’s seen what it takes to win, she takes control and leads by example,” Ellsworth said.

“She can taste that state final and she knows it is within her reach. She can feel it.”

Contact reporter Chuck Constantino at or 954-0859. On Twitter: @CConstan3 or @azprepstar