It was a topsy-turvy season for Pima College's softball team, and its ending couldn't have been more fitting.
Unfortunate, but fitting.
After winning 15 of its first 20 games, Pima lost eight of its next 11 games and found a spot square on the bubble for the NJCAA Division I national tournament.
"The start of the season was good," coach Armando Quiroz said. "Somewhere along the first third of the season, we went south."
But then the Aztecs flipped the script and finished the season on a tear, going 24-3 in the last regular-season 27 games.
Pima then won the the Region I, Division I championship and entered the NJCAA Division I national tournament in St. George, Utah, as the No. 5 seed.
After winning four games and losing one, Pima faced No. 2-seeded Salt Lake on Saturday in a wild elimination round game that lasted 12 innings. In the end, the Aztecs faltered and lost the game 8-5 after giving up an inside-the-park grand slam.
"It sucked," said shortstop Aubre Carpenter. "It hurt, but we gave our best effort and we couldn't have asked for anything else."
The Aztecs (50-19) finished in third place.
Here's a look at Pima's 2013 season as a whole - what went right, what went wrong and how the team will look next year:
For Quiroz, Carpenter and star pitcher Yvette Alvarez, picking the best moment of the season was easy - the run through the playoffs.
"Being so close to the World Series and the journey getting there was amazing," Quiroz said.
Said Carpenter: "Winning regionals was great because we were in sixth place and we didn't think we'd get there. So many people were saying that we were such a horrible team this year."
Sahuarita High grad Alvarez was a bright spot, too.
The Indiana State-bound pitcher went 33-14 with a 2.02 ERA, and added a team-high 19 home runs and 92 RBIs. She'll have company next year in Terre Haute, Ind.: Carpenter has also committed to play for the Sycamores.
In the middle of the season, things just stopped clicking. Something wasn't right, and the Aztecs were losing at an alarming rate.
"We don't know why," Alvarez said. "We just couldn't win."
Added Quiroz: "We struggled and couldn't put a finger on it as to why. We were not playing well, we were losing to teams we should've never lost to."
Pima turned things around before it got out of hand, but that 11-game stretch in the middle of the season was alarming.
In Quiroz's seven years as Pima's coach, he's always had a star pitcher, an ace at the top of his rotation.
This year, it was Alvarez, but with her heading for a Division I program, someone else will need to step up. Freshmen Stephanie Vejar and Corrie Ward are both candidates to emerge.
"We've got some great freshmen coming back and a great recruiting class coming in. Lots of talent," Quiroz said. "So we're very optimistic. We've had a signature pitcher-in-waiting most years, and this year we have a group of really good pitchers but no stars just yet. Yvette was the star, we're hoping out of this group one or two of them emerge."
Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4145. On Twitter @zackblatt.