Raiders earn crown
It was only fitting that Evonne Corona led the Cibola softball team to the first-ever Yuma Union High School District tournament championship.
Corona means "crown" in Spanish.
And that's exactly what the Raiders can don for a year after cruising through the local competition, including Saturday's 4-0 win over Kofa in the title game at the Joe Henry Athletic Complex. Cibola (7-0) won all seven games in the tournament with Corona picking up five victories, including three over the Kings (4-3).
In the third-place game, Yuma defeated San Luis 9-5.
Saturday, Corona pitched a complete-game shutout - her second of the season - and struck out five. She allowed just five hits and did not walk a batter.
"That's the important thing, she did not walk any," Cibola coach Shelly Baumann said. "She was averaging about four walks a game, but she was really in control (Saturday). She pitched phenomenal all tournament."
The title was the first for Corona and her senior teammates, and they all reveled in the moment.
"We all really wanted this," Corona said. "When I woke up I really wanted to win and it feels really good now that we did."
Corona finished the tournament 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA. She gave up just five earned runs in 33 innings, and seven runs overall.
She beat Kofa freshman Alyssa Rhodes for the second time in as many days for the title. Rhodes (1-3) threw six innings, allowing 10 hits and striking out three. She gave up all four runs, but just two were earned as the Kings committed four errors.
"(Alyssa) has been throwing well these past few days," Kofa coach Emma Morrison said. But she gets a little nervous when she faces girls like Sierra (Darnell) and Corona because she knows they can hit. But she struck Sierra out and got Corona to pop out once, so she's coming along."
The Raiders scored two runs in the opening inning, each crossing the plate with two outs, and added another run in both the second and fourth. The Kings could never string together enough hits to crack the scoreboard and had just two baserunners reach second. They stranded six.
Darnell and catcher Gigi Eykamp paced the Cibola offense as each was 2-for-4 with Darnell tallying an RBI. Corona was 1-for-3 with an RBI and scored a run.
Kaylee Renick and Corey Strickland each went 2-for-3 for Kofa.
While the Raiders won the city title for the first time in Baumann's recent memory, her team won't put a lot of stock in it.
"It's a pride thing," Baumann said. "It's nice to win it, especially since we haven't done it in a while, but it's only for pride. It doesn't mean anything when it comes to getting to state."
For Kofa, which features nine freshmen and two sophomores on its 15-player roster, the tournament was a learning experience. The Kings played better in each game as they became more comfortable, according to Morrison.
"We definitely improved throughout the tournament, but it's hard when you have a young team," Morrison said of the new format. "Normally, you play a game and then have time to work on the mistakes you made. But this year, we had to work on that stuff during the (next) game."
Chris Gabel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6883.