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Raiders to rely on bats this postseason
Last year, the Cibola softball team had an incredible regular-season run, earned the No. 2 seed for the AIA 5A-II playoffs and lost to the No. 15 seed in the first round, eventually winning one game in the double-elimination tournament.
This year, the Raiders had an incredible run in the regular season, again earning the No. 2 seed for the playoffs. This time, they're hoping for a better start when they face No. 15 Carl Hayden at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cibola softball field.
The Raiders lost two games this year, both in early-season tournaments, and went perfect in both AIA games and the Gila Valley Region. The past three years, the Raiders have depended on their pitching, but this year's squad, according to coach Shelly Baumann, is the best offensive team in school history.
“Hopefully that will give us an edge,” Baumann said. “But the same as all area schools going into the tournament, we haven't really seen the Phoenix schools. So we're going to do things in practice to emulate what their pitching styles are.”
The Raiders have hit 35 home runs this year as a team after hitting nine last year. Alex Roman hit one home run last year, but leads the Raiders with 12 this year. And while Roman's homers have been both inside the park and over the wall, Melissa Padilla's eight have been mostly of the long-ball variety.
Padilla said a big difference between this year and last is this year's club gets along better.
“I think we all bond together really good,” Padilla said. “We're just one together. We have each other's back. When one of us needs help, we're there for each other. We don't criticize each other in a bad way. We give each other tips.”
Myliah Ramirez has been on the varsity team for four years. In that stretch, the Raiders have never won more than two playoff games — they won their first, lost their second, won their third and lost their fourth as a No. 4 seed in 2009. But Ramirez said the players who were around in the past have learned the lessons.
“We learned we are beatable,” Ramirez said. “Other teams will come out and play their best game against us and we can't take any team lightly. Anybody will beat anybody on any given day.”
This year's team is hitting .415, and the team's top seven players have not only hit at least two home runs but also driven in at least 20 runs. Of those seven, only Jackie Pierson hasn't scored at least 20, and that's because she's the pitcher and usually relieved on the bases by a courtesy runner.
“Our lineup, from top to bottom, was really good,” Padilla said. “We didn't really depend on just one person or two people. We all evened ourselves out. Even fielding-wise we did much better. Plus we all came together this year.”
Baumann said the team has seemed oblivious to the rankings — they finished the year as the only undefeated 5A team in power point games and flirted with the No. 1 spot. She said that may be a big advantage.
“I've never heard the girls at least speak to us coaches about what the ranking has been all year,” Baumann said. “We've never even discussed that because it really doesn't matter. Whoever steps on the field you have to compete with and you have to beat them.”