Yavapai softball hits the road to defend national title

The top-seeded Yavapai College baseball team will hunker down on its own field and host No. 4 seed Cochise College tomorrow in the opener to Region I play.

But the softball team, seeded second, will begin defense of its national title in Tucson for a Friday Region opener against No. 3 seed Central Arizona College.

Last year’s squad captured the first-ever softball national championship at the Prescott college in a come-from-behind 2-1 win over the defending champions, Wallace State CC.  They were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation when they entered the NJCAA Div. 1 World Series.

This year, they’re still a work in progress in some ways.

Both squads had a chance to host their NJCAA Region I Division I  playoff series, but the softball team needed to win the season-ending series with Pima Community College.  They wound up splitting, as Pima took the opener, 6-3, and the Roughriders came back to win the nightcap, 5-2.

The baseball team, ranked No. 15 nationally, took care of business on their side, as they swept a doubleheader from Phoenix College, 7-4 and 8-1, to win their third consecutive ACCAC title.   It’s their fifth title in six years.

Yavapai ((39-17, 29-9) entered the final games of the season tied for first place with CAC (39-17, 27-11), but the Vaqueros lost both games of their doubleheader with Pima CC to give Yavapai the outright crown.

The 15 total runs Yavapai ran up against Phoenix College are a snapshot of the kind of scoring they’ve been producing of late.  The week before the Phoenix College series, the Roughriders swept South Mountain CC in a critical doubleheader they needed to move into a tie for first.

In the first game, Cam Schiller went 3-for-3 and hit two home runs.  In the nightcap, the Roughriders scored 21 runs as Schiller went 2-for-4, Aaron Fujiki had a 4-for-5 performance, and Zach Haley smashed a grand slam home run.

Against Phoenix College, Schiller added another home run and a three-hit spree at the plate in the second game.  Ty Forney added three more hits and DeMarcus Tidwell had two hits to maintain his lead among league hitters with 89 this season, which also ranks him fourth in the NJCAA.

The loss by the softball team not only meant they wouldn’t be able to host the opening round, but they also fell in the national rankings, from 6th to 13th.  That earned the Roughriders (47-14, 24-8) a No. 2 seed and a re-match against No. 3 seed Central Arizona (41-21, 20-12), who they’ve beaten three out of five games earlier in the season.

But the softball team is coming off a strong performance against Pima, which will help them roll into the playoffs with a little swagger, as they try to defend their Region I title.

Brittany Keiser went 3-for-4 in the opener and then added a 2-for-3 performance in the nightcap.  Danielle Muniz (2-for-3) and Ashley Snedeker (2-for-4) were also hot at the plate in the first game, and Emily Cooper (3-for-3) and Molly Brossart (2-for-3) were the supporting cast in the finale.

The regional winners will get an automatic berth in the NJCAA national tournament.  The baseball team gets to start its journey in the friendly confines of Roughrider Park in Prescott, while the softball team is faced with a tough draw on the road.

But both have the same mountain to climb.