Yavapai softball back from lo-o-ong road trip, ranked No. 1

Every team has to deal with road trips.  But the Yavapai College softball team has a legitimate gripe about being road-weary.

The Lady Roughriders spent their first 31 games of the season away from home.

And they lost just two games during that entire month-a-half span that began January 28 with the first game of the Las Vegas Tournament.

The Riders celebrated their return to their Prescott home field Saturday by sweeping a doubleheader from Gateway Community College from Phoenix, 11-2 and 10-2.

It was a pair of local players that led the way offensively against Gateway.  Estela Pinon, a freshman from Tucson, went 2-for-3 at the plate, with a double and two RBIs.  She also pitched all five innings of the run rule-shortened game, posting 10 strikeouts.

Danielle Muniz, a sophomore infielder from Phoenix, and Vanessa House, a sophomore outfielder from Palmdale, Calif., contributed two hits apiece.

Those last two wins elevated their season record to 31-2 and lifted them to the No. 1 spot in the latest NJCAA Division I national rankings.  The only other Arizona college listed in the top 20 is Pima Community College, which Yavapai swept in a doubleheader last weekend.

Alex Landon‘s single in the top of the seventh won the first game against Pima, 5-4, and Sierra Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with two RBI’s to help close the deal on a 7-3 win in the nightcap.  Muniz was there again, going 2-for-4, and Maranda Tapia added a pinch-hit triple.

Landon and Tapia are sophomores, with Landon coming from Scottsdale and Tapia from Camp Verde.  Rodriguez is a freshman from Chandler.

Amelia Willadsen, the freshman pitcher from Mesa, got the win in the first game and Pinon pocketed her 12th victory in the late game.  For her efforts against Pima and Gateway, Willadsen was named the ACCAC Division I Pitcher of the Week, giving up just two earned runs over the 15 innings she worked.

The Riders are hoping to ride the arms of Willadsen and Pinon back to the national title game.  They were national champions in 2009, but were knocked out in the semi-finals last year, finishing as the No. 3 team in the nation.

The ‘Riders’ only conference loss so far this season was a 2-3 squeeker to Phoenix College (21-10) at the start of last month, when they split a doubleheader by winning the first game, 16-3.

But the two teams meet again tomorrow at high noon.

This will be a rubber match of sorts, since the two teams have split the eight times they’ve met since 2008.  But Yavapai already has something for which it should be thankful.

The games are at home.  Home, sweet home.

(Photo: Yavapai Athletics)