Since winning the Division IV state title last May, the San Manuel softball team hasn’t taken its foot off the gas pedal.
Instead, it has pushed down harder and then flipped on the afterburner.
The top-ranked Miners scored nine runs in their final two at-bats to cruise past No. 6 Desert Christian 19-2 in five innings Thursday for their 19th straight win.
“We feel really good, but we just need to come together and practice a lot harder,” said junior captain Felicia Medina, who doubled to the fence in consecutive at-bats in the win.
“Last year our team was pretty good — there were some ups and downs — but this year I think our team is really solid all-around. Our relationship, too, is just really good.
“We feel like we could take it again.”
San Manuel is 25-2-1 and hasn’t lost since March 8 when it fell to Flagstaff, the No. 17 team in Division II. Its only other loss came against Bullhead City Mohave, which is ranked one spot ahead of Flagstaff.
Coach Deanne Brewer said this spring’s team is even better than last year’s squad that finished the season with 16 straight wins, but the Miners are keeping focused and not looking past anyone. They close the regular season Tuesday against No. 7 Kearny Ray, a team that hung with San Manuel in a one-run game earlier this month.
“We’re stronger, and we have a another season of experience,” Brewer said. “We’re confident in our abilities. We know there are tough teams in our division, and we’re not looking past anyone. We’re just playing it game by game.”
Sophomore ace Lyana Waddell struck out nine batters to improve to 22-1. She said all her pitches were working well but that her drop ball and screwball were really on target. She’s hoping to improve her rise ball for the state tournament and enjoys being the team’s go-to pitcher.
“We just have to keep our mindset and go game by game and not get too bigheaded and act like we got it,” Waddell said. “We have to work for it like we did last year.”
One of the key ingredients for the Miners has been the team chemistry, something that has continuously grown stronger with essentially everyone back from last year’s group.
“We’re like family,” senior center fielder Angelica Zuniga said. “We push ourselves to do better.”
Despite the loss Thursday, host Desert Christian is still in line for a trip to the state tournament. Coach Bob Vance is hoping the loss can serve as a lesson for his team and perhaps spark the Eagles in the right direction for a rematch with the Miners in the postseason.
“You never want to lose, but it’s a perfect time to lose,” Vance said. “It’s a good thing to lose a tough one right before the playoffs and make you focus.”