Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – Kingman Academy softball’s Jillian Winters knows the teams that are seeded higher than the No. 11 Lady Tigers played tough opponents this season and deserve to be where they are in the AIA 2A State Softball Championship. Winters also knows that she and her teammates played a great season and shouldn’t be overlooked after going undefeated in 2A West.
“I definitely think everyone is going to underestimate us,” Winters said. “They think, ‘Oh they’re 11, they’re down lower and not doing very well.’ But we’re going to come in and show them what we have. I think we’re going to do really well.”
The first opponent standing in Kingman Academy’s way is No. 6-seed San Manuel at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Rose Mofford Complex.
While the Lady Tigers don’t know much about the Lady Miners, Kingman Academy softball coach Tim Pena is keeping his game plan the same.
“The way I look at it is, we know we’re going to play a good team, so we just have to be mentally and physically ready to go,” Pena said. “Just keep doing what we’ve been doing all year. We’re not going to change anything.”
Pena also told the Lady Tigers it’s just another game and to relax and play the way they have all season. Kingman Academy’s Maryssa Edwards has taken those words to heart and knows the Lady Tigers can make a run.
“I’m excited, I’m really excited,” she said. “I woke up (Thursday) morning just knowing that we can do it. I’m proud of all the girls. We’ve been working hard.”
Kingman Academy definitely has made improvements from a season ago where it went 10-8 and 2-5 in Division III Section V (which would be this year’s 4A). The then No. 25-seed Lady Tigers saw their season come to an end in the first round of the Division III State Tournament with an extra inning loss to No. 8-seed Show Low.
That experience helped Kingman Academy this season as it finished 14-4 and 10-0 in 2A West. The Lady Tigers still have their work cut out for them as they haven’t played any of the teams in this year’s 2A State Championship.
Pena isn’t worried though.
“San Manuel is always pretty solid,” he said. “It’s not going to be something that we haven’t seen before. We’ve played River Valley. We’ve played Lake Havasu. We’ve played some good schools, so we know we just have to come out and play.”
The game plan isn’t going to be anything special, as Pena said the team is going to bunt, put runners in motion, make the defense work and hit the ball. He didn’t say whether he would start Jessica Plew or Edwards tonight, but both pitchers have proven themselves this season.
“Playing conference games and then going right into state keeps you focused in that same mentality,” Plew said. “So we’re ready.”