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AIA365 Staff | Students

Don Ketchum

Staff Writer,

D-III softball: Empire earns top seed, Payson No. 2

Apr 29, 2013

Softball teams from divisions I and II began their state tournaments last weekend, and it will be Division III’s turn on Thursday (May 2) at the Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix.

Division III is single elimination, while I and II are double elimination.

Here’s a look at some of the 24 teams in Division III. The top eight receive first-round byes and will begin play on Friday (May 3).

The top eight are No. 1 Tucson Empire, No. 2 Payson, No. 3 Winslow, No. 4 Benson, No. 5 Goodyear Estrella Foothills, No. 6 Cottonwood Mingus, No. 7 Snowflake and No. 8 Show Low.  Phoenix Bourgade Catholic, the 14th seed, is the defending champion.

Empire is just the latest entry in a city loaded with quality softball teams. The Ravens were seeded seventh in 2012 and reached the quarterfinals, where they suffered a narrow loss to then-No. 2 Estrella Foothills.

Empire is a strong-hitting team. Infielder Tazia Hernandez has surpassed the 60-hit barrier, according to MaxPreps, and pitcher-infielder Kelsey Smith has nearly 70 RBIs to go with double digits in home runs. Pitcher Brittany Woolridge won 14 of her first 15 games with a 0.65 earned-run average.

No. 3 Winslow, which fell to Bourgade in the title game last year, has had an emotional season.

The Bulldogs lost their coach, Becky Barris, in the off-season when she died in an auto accident. The new coaching staff has done a fine job getting the players to focus on the task at hand.

Two of Winslow’s top players are pitcher-infielder Halle Hayes and first baseman-pitcher Taylor Baca.

Benson is back at No. 4 this year and continues to have one of the top programs in southern Arizona under coach Manny Ellsworth.

Led by long-time coach Rick Brungardt, Estrella Foothills is at No. 5 and led by sophomore third baseman Taylor Godfrey and pitcher Dustie Durham. Godfrey is a stolen-base threat and Durham was recently listed with a 25-2 record and 1.56 ERA.

Mingus, at No. 6, always has a competitive program and this year is no different. The Marauders have an aggressive pitcher in Angelina Saucedo, who had 169 strikeouts in 27 games.

No. 10 River Valley opens against No. 23 Chino Valley. River Valley, coached by Amanda Amann, has a good blend of experience and youth.

River Valley is led by senior shortstop-pitcher Breeya Howells and senior center fielder Haley Berggren.

No. 11 Fort Defiance Window Rock, which faces No. 22 Safford, as a similar roster as River Valley, good experience mixed with youth.

The Fighting Scouts, led by coach Hank Henson, finished a solid third in the Kingman Invitational. They will rely on pitcher McKenna Parker to keep opponents under control.

Tuba City is No. 13 and meets No. 20 Camp Verde in its opener. Tuba City pitcher Shiniya Henry has not allowed many runs, with an ERA of 1.60.

The first-round schedule, all at Rose Mofford . . .

No. 17 Lakeside Blue Ridge vs. No. 16 Morenci, 6 p.m., Field #1 (winner vs. No. 1 Empire on Friday). No. 24 Kayenta Monument Valley vs. No. 9 Round Valley, 6 p.m., Field #2 (winner vs. No. 8 Show Low). No. 21 Holbrook vs. No. 12 Chinle, 6 p.m., Field #3 (winner vs. Estrella Foothills). No. 20 Camp Verde vs. No. 13 Tuba City, 6 p.m., Field #4 (winner vs. Benson).

No. 19 Coolidge vs. No. 14 Phoenix Bourgade Catholic, 7:30 p.m., field TBA (winner vs. Winslow). No. 22 Safford vs. No. 11 Fort Defiance Window Rock, 7:30 p.m., field TBA (winner vs. Cottonwood Mingus). No. 23 Chino Valley vs. No. 10 River Valley, 7:30 p.m., field TBA (winner vs. Snowflake). No. 18 Thatcher vs. No. 15 Wickenburg, 7:30 p.m., field TBA (winner vs. Payson).