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Under normal circumstances, Arizona high school athletes would be prepping for state competition right now, trying to earn a spot in tournament play or qualify for the championships.

Geared up with a full coaching staff and hard-working athletes, Maricopa High School track and field had to put on the brakes. With only one major meet under their belts, the Rams, like every other team in the state, were knocked out of competition by the coronavirus outbreak.

It shuttered schools and training facilities and then the entire season. For seniors hoping not only for a last hurrah but also a chance at athletic scholarships, it was a huge monkey wrench.

“Zanaa Ramirez has a good shot to make it to the NCAA level,” head track coach Corey Nelson said. “Katherine Gores has a good shot to make it to the collegiate level.”

Before the season collapsed, both had personal bests in the big Aztec Invitational at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. Gores, a javelin specialist, placed second with a throw of 99-7. Ramirez, who is also on Nelson’s club team, placed eighth in the 400-meter dash in 1:03.57.

“I’m a little frustrated,” Ramirez said. “We were doing really well so far, and my teammates worked really hard.”

Also not knowing she was wrapping up her senior season, Daijah Scott had personal records in the 100-meter dash, finishing 13th in 13.35, and in the 100-meter hurdles, eighth in 17.63.

While Ramirez was finishing ninth in the 800-meter run, fellow senior Coreyuna Mitchell-Shephard was running a personal record 2:56.43 in 42nd place. She also PR’d in the 400 at 1:08.64 to finish 31st. Meanwhile, senior RyAnn Liermann was Maricopa’s top finisher in the discus in 14th place with a throw of 76-7 and in shot put in 21st place with 25-5.5.

Gores was 12th in the triple jump in 29-1.75. Senior Chloe Luiz was 19th in the girls’ pole vault at six feet. Amoni James was 37th in the long jump in 11-3.

The boys’ track and field team had fewer seniors competing, but they were getting workouts. Steel Lewis was 12th in the pole vault with a vault of 11-0. Quinton Stapleton was 44th in the 3200-meter run and 49th in the 1600. Kian Carroll was 46th in the 3200.

Friday would have been their final warmup before the state championships, the major Hohokam Invitational at Westwood High.

“That’s when we start putting down fast times, qualifying for state and we’re at our best potential,” Nelson said.

He came into the season with a full staff of two throw coaches, a miler coach and a team manager. Now they are turning their minds toward the 2020-21 school year, and Nelson, by expertise a sprint coach, is picking up cross-country coaching.

Over in MHS softball, coach Jason Crawford has submitted his resignation at the end of this school year. The girls were off to a strong start with a 7-3 record. They had outscored their opponents 68-32.

The seniors were doing their part on a team that was strong across all grades.

Keilee Keys-Carrillo was batting .452 with five runs batted in through 10 games. Kayla Occhiline had her average at .364 in seven games played. Kiana Miller-Gomez had five RBIs.

The MHS baseball team had a 4-5 record for the abbreviated season. Senior Austin Rapp was batting .368 with seven hits. His classmate Parker Hunsaker batted .304, scored 11 runs, had seven hits and four stolen bases. Jackson Lindseth scored eight runs for his final season.

While girls’ tennis boasted no seniors, the boys’ team leaned on three in its short, 1-3 season. Noah Panter had a singles record of 2-2 and 1-3 in doubles. Ethan Atkinson and Angel Urbina Noriega were 0-4 and 1-3.

Senior Kayla Occhiline signs a letter of intent with PVCC. Submitted photo

Two Maricopa High School softball players signed letters of intent to play at the collegiate level, and a third is ready follow suit.

Infielder Kayla Occhiline signed with Paradise Valley Community College. Kielee Keys-Carillo, who plays second, third and outfield, signed with South Mountain Community College.

According to head coach Jason Crawford, Kiana Miller-Gomez is set to sign with PVCC next week as well. She plays third base and outfield.

Last season, Occhiline was Second Team All-Region, and Keys-Carillo and Miller-Gomez received honorable mention.

Danica Gutierrez finished second in her softball age division at the national PH&R during MLB All-Star Week. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A 12-year-old softball player from Alterra finished second in the MLB Pitch, Hit & Run national championship during MLB All-Star Week in Cleveland.

Danica Gutierrez qualified for the competition by winning her softball age division in the Team Championship at Chase Field. “It was awesome,” said Danica, who plays club softball for the Gila River Chaos and some club baseball. She also plays for the Maricopa Wells Middle School softball team and Little League.

Flying to Ohio July 7 was her first time in an airplane, which caused some nerves. The next day, competitors were on the field in their PHR outfits ready to pitch, hit and run.

Danica is typically a pitcher but said her best PHR event was batting.

Sure enough, in the hitting event, she placed first, hitting the ball 151 feet for 302 points. In the running event, Danica placed second, running from second to home in 9.25 seconds for 375 points. The pitching portion of the competition was different from her previous experience, using a platform. All the competitors missed their first two throws at the target and hit their last four. Danica scored 300 points.

The results were later announced at the ballpark restaurant. “I had a gut-feeling Danica did not get enough points to win the event,” her father Daniel Gutierrez said.

Besides a nice, second-place plaque, Danica came back with great memories – from a celebrity softball game and futures baseball game, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, aquatic and science museums, paddling Lake Erie and even participating in the All-Star Home Run Derby.

“The different groups of kids were able to take the field and shag the balls,” Daniel Gutierrez said. “Danica got to be part of history as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went against Joc Pederson as she shagged the few balls that weren’t home runs. In the championship round, her group was in the bull pen; she almost got hit by a home-run ball.”

This was the third year she has competed in Pitch, Hit & Run.

To reach Nationals, Danica had to work through layers of competition. That started at the local tournament at Copper Sky. She was among the top three in her age group to advance to the Sectionals at Casa Grande. There, she qualified to play at the MLB Team Championship hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Danica Gutierrez (circled in yellow) and the other PH&R finalists in Cleveland. Submitted photo
Danica Gutierrez in Cleveland. Submitted photo

Danica Gutierrez is a National Finalist in MLB Pitch, Hit & Run. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


A 12-year-old Maricopa girl is heading for Cleveland next week to compete during MLB All-Star Week.

In the MLB Pitch, Hit & Run competition, Danica Gutierrez beat out the 11-12-year-old crowd in the softball division at Chase Field. Her results qualified her for the national tournament during All-Star week.

“It was awesome,” said Danica, who plays club softball for the Gila Riva Chaos and some club baseball and also plays for the Maricopa Wells Middle School softball team.

This was the third year she has competed in Pitch, Hit & Run. She is typically a pitcher but said her best event was batting.

Now she’s preparing for Cleveland.

“I practice at home, I practice on the field,” she said. “I’m hitting off a tee, and I’m working on my agility.”

To reach Nationals, Danica had to work through layers of competition. That started at the local tournament at Copper Sky. She was among the top three in her age group to advance to the Sectionals at Casa Grande. There, she qualified to play at the MLB Team Championship hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

Competition came from around Arizona and New Mexico. Danica finished on top of her age division.

Other Maricopans competing at the MLB Team Championship at Chase Field were Kiersten Cope, who finished second in the 7-8 softball division, and Madison Brandon, third in the 13-14 softball division.

Winners at the Diamondbacks’ MLB Team Championships. Submitted photo

Winning the MLB Team Championship did not automatically qualify her for Nationals. MLB has 29 Team Championships and selects the top three scores across the country as National Finalists. Danica was No. 2 in her division and she will be joining players from Alabama and Washington in the finals.

Danica has played softball since she was 8. She previously played soccer, which was when her father noted her killer instinct.

“I saw how aggressive she was, in a good way,” Daniel Gutierrez said. “She was one of our top scorers. And when she was a goalie, she was always moving.”

Danica with her father Daniel Gutierrez Sr. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

She has also played flag football, volleyball and basketball.

“We like to stay busy,” Danica said.

Daniel and Monica Gutierrez moved to Alterra form Texas more than 13 years ago. Both of their children, Danica and Daniel Jr., were born here.

Danica’s father has always been her coach or at least an assistant coach. He said athletics is great for kids, and not just physically.

“It keeps them active,” Gutierrez said. “They make friends, they play with anybody. It keeps them from being shy.”

MLB Pitch, Hit & Run participants compete in softball and baseball in four age groups, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14.

In the pitching portion of the competition, they throw six balls at a strike-zone target. Hitting the zone is worth 75 points. In hitting, participants hit six balls for distance off a batting tee, with the top three measured distances counting toward the score. In running, participants are timed from second base to home plate.

The National Finalists were announced on television. The competition is July 8.

Danica competing at Chase Field. Submitted photo

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Chantel Holguin. Photo by Victor Moreno

Seven Maricopa High School softball players were honored in voting for the 5A San Tan all-region team.

Senior Chantel Holguin and sophomore Karyn Meier were named First Team. Holguin batted .554, fifth in the region. She was Top 10 in the region in runs scored with 29 and in slugging percentage at .800. She was second in stolen bases with 13. Meier batted .473, was Top 10 in slugging at .784, runs scored with 27 and in stolen bases with 12. She also had 22 runs batted in.

Sophomore Evone Santiago and junior Kayla Occhiline were named Second Team. Santiago pitched two no-hitters and was third in the San Tan in wins with seven. She was third in strikeouts with 65. Her ERA of 3.57 was also third in the region. Occhiline batted .433. She knocked in 16 runs and scored eight.

Receiving honorable mention were senior Daisy Guzman, junior Kielee Keys-Carillo and junior Kiana Miller-Gomez.

The Rams were 10-12 overall.

Sequoia Pathway varsity softball celebrates an undefeated season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After playing a perfect 14-0 season that wrapped Tuesday, the Sequoia Pathway varsity softball team is top seed in the Canyon Athletic Association Division 2 state tournament automatically in the final four.

At home Tuesday, the Pumas defeated South Ridge 22-2. This season, they outscored their opponents 239-26. Pathway played in the CAA’s Landmark Conference. CAA is primarily comprised of charter schools.

In the state tourney, the Pumas will play either Sequoia Charter or Imagine-Superstition on Friday at Salt River High School.

Last season, Sequoia Pathway was 7-6. The turnaround was driven by this year’s seniors, who were honored after Tuesday’s contest. They include Deserae Garcia, Alicia Lewis, Jasmin Nafarrate and Brenda Peck.

Garcia, a co-captain, led the team in hits with 23, runs scored (27) and doubles (nine) while batting .609.

“She is the leader on the field and in the batter’s box,” head coach Matt Gallagher said. “There is no one I want hitting in a clutch situation than Deserae Garcia.”

Nafarrate, who batted .407, has been a team captain for four years, the last three of which she has been catcher.

“There is something that is just awesome when your catcher can throw to second base from her knees,” Gallagher said. “Nobody runs on that.”

Lewis batted .545, scored 16 and drove in 16 while playing a steady first base.

The Pumas had only two close games this season. One was an 8-6 win at Desert Heights; the other a 3-1 win over Imagine-Superstition.

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Photo by Kyle Norby

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Maricopa High School softball team has split their most recent eight games to put their overall record at 10-9.

That keeps them in a position to make the 5A play-in tournament. The Rams are currently ranked 24th in the conference. To end the season, they play 12th-ranked Gilbert Tuesday (Senior Night) and again Thursday. The outcome of those two games could alter the rankings. The top 25 teams advance to state competition.

Maricopa pulled out an 8-7 victory over Agua Fria March 27 before splitting games against Williams Field. The Rams also split a pair of games against Higley, winning the April 5 contest in dramatic style 11-9 with a three-run sixth inning.

The Rams also defeated Sierra Linda 22-5 in between losses to Casteel.

This season, senior Chantel Holguin leads the Maricopa batting with a .556 average. Her 28 runs scored, 35 hits, and 13 doubles are also team bests. Posting similar numbers is sophomore Karyn Meier, who is batting .493 and leads the team in runs batted in with 21 and tied Holguin’s doubles total at 13.

Freshman Rori Gosiak is batting .476 and has 12 stolen bases, while junior Kayla Occhiline is batting .462. Sophomore Evone Santiago leads the team in triples with three and is batting .452.

Santiago is 7-6 pitching with an earned run average of 3.27. She has pitched 81.1 innings, striking out 63 while walking 23.

Freshman Adrianna Armstrong is 3-3 on the mound with an ERA of 4.26.

Photos by Jim Headley

A total of 12 teams took to the fields at Copper Sky Park in Maricopa to raise money and assist the family of Israel “Izzy” Calderon, who was seriously injured in a car wreck on State Route 347 a few years ago. The 2019 Israel “Izzy” Calderon third annual benefit softball tournament raises funds for the family. This year was action packed on Saturday, as the first pitch was thrown by former mayor Kelly Anderson shortly before 8 a.m. and action continued through the day and into the evening, ending about 9 p.m.

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The Maricopa High School baseball and softball tournaments scheduled to open the season this week, have been canceled due to inclement weather.

The Rams baseball team did get in one game of the Pinon-Huffman tournament, a 13-1 loss to Tempe on Wednesday.



The Maricopa High School baseball and softball teams start of their seasons by hosting home tournaments this week.

The Pinon-Huffman Baseball Tournament is Feb. 20-23 in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

Wednesday’s competition begins at 3:30 p.m. with McClintock playing Poston Butte, followed at 6 p.m. by Maricopa against Tempe. Meanwhile, Casa Grande is hosting Seton Catholic, Dobson and Apache Junction.

Play continues Thursday and Friday with the same game times. Maricopa plays Poston Butte at 6 p.m. Thursday and McClintock at 6 p.m. Friday. Saturday, the top four from the Maricopa and Casa Grande sites play.

The 12th annual Krystin Diehl Softball Tournament will take place Feb. 22-23 at Maricopa High School.

Teams playing in the tournament include Florence, Higley, Maricopa, Mountain Point, McClintock and Yuma Catholic.

Pool play games start on Friday at 4:00 PM. Bracket tournament action begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with the championship game slated to start at 3 p.m.

For both tournaments, admission for adults is $5, students $3, age 6 and under free. AIA Passes only are accepted.

For more information on the tournament call Maricopa High School at 520-568-8100, ext. 4008

Kevin McDill and Jeremy Waters with City Councilmember Rich Vitiello at Copper Sky. Photo by Jim Headley

The Israel “Izzy” Calderon third annual Benefit Tournament is March 30, according to event organizers Kevin McDill and Jeremy Waters.

The annual event is a benefit to assist Calderon’s family after he was seriously injured in a crash on Highway 347 and is now the resident of a nursing home.

“This is our third annual tournament to raise money for our friend Israel who was hurt in an accident a little over two years ago,” said McDill. “Insurance didn’t really kick in as much as they needed to, so he’s in a nursing home and bills are piling up. We do anything we can to help them with that.”

McDill said Calderon is in a Scottsdale home.

“He is in a vegetative state. He wakes up and he can look around. He’s not on life support but he has suffered some severe brain damage. He can’t recognize people and he can’t talk. He can’t eat,” McDill said.

Annually about 300 to 500 people participated in the event each of the last two years and raised $11,000 and over $9,000, respectively, in 2017 and 2018. There are 12 teams with an average of 10 to 12 people per team.

There are generally between 125 and 150 players, “then you have the friends and family come out.”

“This year, we are a little better organized than we were last year. We feel like we will exceed both the first and second year,” Waters said. “We would love to get up around the $15,000 mark if possible.”

McDill said, “It keeps getting bigger every year. It is a fun event. We have a raffle with donations from businesses all over town. There are a lot of softball items. Gift cards and what-not. We have a home run derby – that is always a lot of fun. It generates a lot of buzz and it is a fun event.”

McDill said Izzy was a good guy and he played softball with him for years.

“We really miss not having him around. We want to do all we can for the family,” McDill said.

Waters added, “He was the type of guy that when you got out on the field that evening, you were happy to see that he was there. He was one of those guys that everyone looked forward to seeing.”

Izzy is married and has one son, Israel Jr. The family still lives in Maricopa.

“The biggest thing we are looking for is local support. We do have a lot of local businesses that have chipped in and thrown out donations. We have a big screen TV that is being raffled off. Other items that businesses are offering and services will be raffled off. We are looking for more donations. We’re obviously looking for monetary donations,” Waters said.

Every penny raised during this event goes directly to ease the financial burden on Calderon’s family.

Businesses can also sponsor teams for $300 for the tournament. The home run derby cost $20 to enter or participants can enter for free if they get a local business to sponsor them for $100 and the hitter wears a shirt with their name on it.

There are also men’s and women’s divisions in the home run derby.

The event takes place on March 30 from 8 a.m. to about 11 p.m. at Copper Sky.

“It is an all-day event,” Waters said. “The raffle and home run derby are taking place midday. Probably between 12 and 2 [p.m.], possibly 1-3. We do the home run derby and the raffle at the same time.”

Waters said even people who aren’t playing in the tournament are invited to come out and participate in the raffle and show their support for the family.

He added the home run derby is open to anyone who wants to try.

For more information or to donate, contact Kevin McDill at CoachKevinM@yahoo.com or call him at 480-272-1074.

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MHS seniors Chantel Holguin (left) and Daisy Guzman have signed with community college softball programs. Submitted photos

Two members of the Maricopa High School varsity softball team have signed letters of intent to play at the college level.

Chantel Holguin signed with South Mountain Community College. She has played at the varsity level since her freshman year, compiling a three-year batting average of .354 and scoring 48 runs. She batted over .400 last season.

Holguin also plays club softball with the Arizona Crush. Last season, South Mountain CC was 13-44.

Daisy Guzman signed to play with Scottsdale Community College. She has played softball since she was 10 years old. In two seasons with MHS varsity, she has batted .303 through 49 games and scored 18 runs.

She also plays for the Arizona Scorpions Club. Last season, Scottsdale CC was 7-47.

At left, Chantel Holguin (center) with AZ Crush coach David Martinez (from left), dad Juan Holguin, mom Renee Holguin and SMCC coach Frank Gomez. At right, Daisy Guzman (second from left) with mom Tina Manfredi, sister Amelia and dad Vincent Manfredi. Submitted photos

Daisy Guzman is the daughter of Vincent Manfredi, minority owner of InMaricopa.


Photos by Victor Moreno

High school varsity spring sports are under way. Maricopa High School introduces a new sport in beach volleyball while other sports hope to get back into state contention.

Sequoia Pathway Baseball
CAA Division II Region II
March 2 v. WSST 5 p.m.
March 6 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
March 9 v. El Dorado 4 p.m.
March 21 v. South Pointe 4 p.m.
March 26 at ASU Prep Poly 5 p.m.
March 27 at HA-Mesa 4:15 p.m.
April 3 at EVAC 4 p.m.
April 5 at Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 7 v. ALA-Ironwood 11 a.m.
April 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 11 v. Canyon State 4 p.m.

Sequoia Pathway Softball
CAA Division II Region I
March 1 v. ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
March 7 at Imagine Prep Surprise 4 p.m.
March 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4 p.m.
April 2 at Tri-City College Prep 4 p.m.
April 4 v. ALA-Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 5 at ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
April 10 v. Mission Heights 4 p.m.
April 12 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
April 17 v. South Ridge 4 p.m.
April 19 at Paradise Valley Christian 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Baseball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Sierra Linda 3:45 p.m.
March 2 v. Desert Edge 3:45 p.m.
March 5 v. Glendale 3:45 p.m.
March 7 v. Ironwood 4 p.m.
March 10-13 Bob Everett Spring Break Classic at Highland HS
March 21 at Vista Grande 6 p.m.
March 22 at Mesquite 4 p.m.
March 26 at Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 27 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 29 at Casa Grande 4 p.m.
April 3 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 5 v. Verrado 3:45 p.m.
April 6 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 10 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 11 v. Ironwood 6:30 p.m.
April 12 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 17 at McClintock 4 p.m.
April 19 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 20 at Williams Field 3:45 p.m.

Maricopa High School Softball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 at Sierra Linda 4 p.m.
March 2 at Desert Edge6 p.m.
March 5 at Glendale 4 p.m.
March 6 v. Vista Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 8 v. Williams Field 3:45 p.m.
March 19 v. Mesquite 3:45 p.m.
March 27 at Kellis 4 p.m.
March 29 v. Casa Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 30 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
April 3 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 5 at Verrado 4 p.m.
April 6 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 10 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 11 at Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 12 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 17 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 19 at McClintock 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Track & Field
AIA Division II
March 7 at Chaparral 4 p.m.
March 10 at Desert Tune-Up (Mountain View Marana) 8 a.m.
March 21 at McClintock 3 p.m.
March 22 at Schuster Jones Under-Class Showcase 12 p.m.
March 28 at Maricopa Twilight 3:30 p.m.
April 13 at Hohokam Invitational 9:30 a.m.

Maricopa High School Boys’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 2 v. Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 at Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 22 at Williams Field 3:30 p.m.
March 27 v. Cibola 3:30 p.m.
March 28 v. Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 at San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 at Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 at La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 v. Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 at Kofa 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Girls’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Casteel 3:30 p.m.
March 5 at Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 v. Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 27 at Cibola 3 p.m.
March 28 at Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 v. San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 v. Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 v. La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 at Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 v. Kofa 3:30 p.m.
April 16 v. Williams Field 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Beach Volleyball
AIA Division I Section IV (remaining schedule)
March 5 v. Casteel at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 26 v. Millennium at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 28 at Willow Canyon at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 2 at Shadow Ridge at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 4 at Perry at Seville Golf & Country Club 6:30 p.m.
April 9 v. Verrado at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 11 v. Dysart at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 13 v. Hamilton at Copper Sky (Senior Night) 4 p.m.
April 16 at Mesquite High School 4 p.m.



The Maricopa Rams started the 2018 season in a home tournament Thursday. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa High School Softball fell at home, 12-2, against Florence Thursday during the team’s season opener at the annual Krystin Diehl Tournament.

It was the first game led by new head coach Jason Crawford. He joined MHS in August as an English teacher.

A day ahead of the game, Crawford said the team’s biggest challenge is its nerves.

“We have been working hard the entire off season for this moment, and now that it’s here, I need to keep the girls’ from getting too nervous and losing focus of our goals,” Crawford said.

The team was plagued with pre-season jitters during its scrimmage Saturday, Crawford said, and despite moments of confidence on the mound and behind the plate Thursday, Rams softball couldn’t shake the butterflies for a win.

Rams varsity softball is a young team this year — made up of mostly underclassmen and only a handful of juniors and seniors.

Crawford said he’s looking to his older players to mentor their newest players on the field.

With the first game under their belt, Crawford said the team is “working out those kinks of youth and inexperience.”

Rams softball faces off against McClintock High Friday at 4:30 p.m.

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This story has been corrected from a previous version to indicate Mr. Crawford is an English teacher.

A new club softball organization is hosting two first-time “friendly” tournaments in August dubbed “Maricopa Mayhem.”

Maricopa Sandlot fields fast-pitch 12-under and 14-under girls’ teams. The club launched in 2016 to give the girls more competitive opportunities, coach Michael O’Dell said.

The 12U tournament is Aug. 12-13 and the 14U tournament is Aug. 18-20 at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Sixteen teams are being accepted for each.

In both tournaments of Maricopa Mayhem, games start at 8 a.m. both days and are timed for 60 minutes. Saturday’s games will run into the evening, and Sunday’s games will end with the championship game in the mid-afternoon.

The team entry fee is $350. There will be a team trophy and prizes for first and second place.

The tournaments are for fun and sportsmanship and are not United States Specialty Sports Association qualifiers. O’Dell said he and the other parents have worked hard to recruit teams to participate.

“We’ve done quite a bit of legwork, and we’ve posted it on 43ft.com [a softball forum],” he said.

Maricopa Sandlot started with one team of 12 players in spring of ’16 as the girls and their parents were looking for stronger competition than they could find locally. The parents coached and formed a club with uniforms and logos.

After playing in the Tempe Lady Hawks Softball League, eight of the players went on to a higher level of competition, leaving the Sandlot with just four girls.

O’Dell thought that was the end of the experiment, but more parents approached him that fall and asked if the team was going to continue. They soon had enough girls for 12U and 14U teams. O’Dell said they plan to add 10U.

Maricopa Sandlot plays spring and fall seasons.


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Jason Crawford takes over the Rams softball program, which competes in spring. Submitted photo

 A new coach will lead the Maricopa High School softball team this year.

Jason Crawford joined MHS in August as softball head coach and English teacher, Athletic Director Brian Winter said.

Crawford has a decade’s experience coaching softball. Six of those years include head coaching positions at high schools in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Crawford will inherit a Ram team that, in April, finished a difficult season after their first year in the 5A Metro region.

“I know there has been some disconnect, and I’m excited to try and reinvigorate the community and get (them) behind the girls to build a strong program that’s going to be successful year after year,” Crawford said.

Ram softball could see a bolster in its operations as Crawford and Winter, both entering their positions at MHS this year, set two fresh pairs of eyes on the program.

“(Winter) and I both have lofty goals and lofty expectations,” Crawford said. “We seem to be on the very same page in terms of what we see in the future and how we see it getting there.”

In his tenure, Crawford also coached recreation ball and travel teams, the latter of which he hopes to establish at MHS during the summer.

“I’d like to keep (the team) together and keep them playing against top-tier talent to help make them better ball players and get them exposed to get them to college,” Crawford said.

From left, Juliette Hawthorn, Carter Paine and Jackson Stensgard were named All-Region First Team. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

In 5A Metro voting this week, eight Maricopa High School baseball and softball players were named to All-Region teams.

Junior Carter Paine and senior Jackson Stensgard were voted First Team in baseball. Junior Taylor Belcher and sophomore Devin Fiala were Second Team, and junior Tyler Belcher and sophomore Malachi Hogg received honorable mention.

Maricopa High School placed the following athletes on the All-Region Teams:

In softball, senior Juliette Hawthorn was named First Team, and sophomore Chantel Holquin was Second Team as a pitcher.

Paine batted .408, and 12 runs batted in and scored 29 runs. He hit six doubles and a team-leading three triples. He drew 19 walks and had the team’s best on-base percentage of .536. He led the team in steals with nine. He was a workhorse on the mound, pitching 46.1 innings for a 2-5 record. He struck out 40 and walked 28.

Stensgard played in just 18 of the team’s 26 games and batted .476. He hit seven doubles and three of the Rams’ five home runs. He batted in 15 runs and scored another 10. He pitched in six games and 1-5. He struck out 20 and walked 16.

Taylor Belcher hit .325 while playing third base. He had a home run and five doubles and drove in 23 runs. He pitched in nine games and was 0-1. He struck out 11 and walked nine.

Fiala batted .347 and drove in 11 runs. He stole five bases. He turned 12 double plays.

Tyler Belcher hit .288 and scored 15 runs. As a pitcher, he had the Rams’ only winning record, with four wins and two losses in 31.1 innings. He struck out 25 and walked 24.

New to the team, Hogg batted .349, with six doubles and 14 RBI in 24 games.

For the softball Rams, Hawthorn led the team with a .494 average in 26 games. Among her 40 hits were five triples and seven doubles. She also had one of the team’s two home runs this season.

Holquin batted .339. She had 21 hits, including eight doubles, and scored 15 runs. She was error-free in the field. On the mound, Holquin was 3-14, pitching 92.2 innings. She struck out 23 and walked six.

Seniors (from left) Andrea Gallegos, Stephanie Palafox, Juliette Hawthorn, Makailah Hogg and Sabrina Montoya. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School softball team ended a difficult year Thursday with a region loss to McClintock, 18-4. The Rams also said goodbye to five senior players that night after posting an overall record of 4-23.

 “We were really young, but we really learned a lot this year,” coach Brandi Howell said. “Every game we were making progress. When we were losing, we were making progress, and that’s huge.”

In their first year in the 5A Metro region, the girls were 1-9, defeating only Kellis. The Rams started the season with several inexperienced players.

 Howell said the beginning and end of the year were like “night and day.” She saw improvement throughout the season and said the girls were making difficult plays they could not have made at the beginning of the year.

 “Our mindset became different,” she said. “Even when we might not have been executing sometimes, our mind was there. We knew where to go before panicking a little bit.”

 Howell said even an umpire questioned whether she had the same team she had at the beginning of the year. “He said, ‘I know they’re losing, but they look so much better,’” Howell recalled.

 At the end of the game, Maricopa’s seniors handed out flowers to McClintock’s seniors. They were then honored by the team and families and were upbeat about the experience.

 “I’d like to give a shout-out to my teammates for making this a great last season for me,” senior Sabrina Montoya said.

 “My favorite memories were bonding with the team on bus rides, warmups and practice,” senior Andrea Gallegos said.

 A newcomer on the team this year, senior Makailah Hogg said her favorite memory was “pulling a Willie Mays catch that Coach Steve [Weiner] taught me.”

 For senior Juliette Hawthorn it was a painful but funny memory of running into the outfield fence. And for senior Montoya, it was diving into third base and home plate “because I wanted to get dirty.”

 Senior Stephanie Palafox thanked her teammates for making the season fun and her coaches Howell, Weiner and Tom Dugan for their time and effort.

 Though this season “didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to,” Howell thinks the team will come back strong in 2018.

 “I think we’ll have a pretty strong set of infielders coming back,” she said. “We’ll have to replace our outfield, but any time you can have a returning pitcher, it’s huge.”

MHS photo


The Maricopa High School Lady Rams softball team is starts its 2017 season with a three-game home tournament Friday.

1 Hannah Hickey – Fr
2 Sydney McDill – Fr
3 Hope Barajas – Fr
4 Chantel Holquin – Soph
5 Caitlin Wilson – Jr
6 Andrea Harker – Fr
7 Kianna Miller-Gomez – Fr
8 Kielee Keys – Fr
9 Elaina Olivarez – Soph
10 Bailey Petty – Fr
11 Julliette Hawthorn – Sr
12 Kayla Occhiline – Fr
13 Kennedy Glen – Fr
14 Daisy Guzman – Soph
15 Stephanie Palafox – Sr
16 Sabrina Montoya – Sr
17 Andrea Gallegos – Sr
22 Joy Breul – Soph
24 Mikaila Hogg – Sr

Head coach Brandi Howell said her varsity line-up is somewhat young this year with only one returning player.

“It’s a whole new group of girls,” Howell said. “So, they’re definitely working hard, but we have lots to learn. Holguin [Chantel Holguin] is working hard and she’s really stepped up as a leader.”

Howell admitted one of the biggest challenges so far is the learning curve. With such inexperienced players, she has been working extra hard to teach them the ins and outs of the sport. The progress they’ve made, she said, is a great sign of things to come.

“We’ve come a long way from the first day already,” Howell said. “It’s like night and day.”

Howell believes the tournament is a perfect way for the relatively inexperienced team to pick up some hard knowledge of the sport before regular play begins.

“We definitely [still] have a lot to learn,” Howell said.  “So, we’re using these tournaments as a learning tool.”

The mistake that her players make are “young” mistakes, she said, but their ability to catch on quickly is tremendous and you just can’t beat real-time learning.

“There is no better time to learn than in a game,” Howell said.

The team is carrying a larger than normal roster going into the tournament – 19 players, a measure Howell is taking in order to help get some of the less knowledgeable players see the game up close.

“With us being so young we think its super valuable for them to be around the game learning these things,” she said.

The varsity roster will likely shrink to around 13 players after the tournament.

Holguin returns as a sophomore utility player and pitcher. Also notable is a recent transfer from California, senior outfielder and infielder Juliette Hawthorn.

The Lady Rams will faceoff first against McClintock at 9 a.m., second against Peoria at 3 p.m., and last against Higley at 5 p.m., all on Friday at Maricopa High School.

Krysten Diehl Tourament – Maricopa High School
Feb. 24     McClintock    9 a.m.
Feb. 24     Peoria            3 p.m.
Feb. 24     Higley            5 p.m.
Feb. 25     TBA                TBA
Feb. 25     TBA                TBA

2017 Schedule
Feb. 24-25    Krysten Diehl Tourney    TBA    Home
Feb. 28           Sierra Linda                    4:00   Home
March 3           Desert Edge                   4:00   Home
March 6           Glendale                         4:00   Home
March 7            Vista Grande                  4:00   Away
March 9           Williams Field               3:45   Away
March 15         Youngker Invitational    TBA    Away
March 23         Mesquite                       6:30   Away
March 24         Ironwood*                      3:45  Away
March 28         Kellis*                            4:00   Home
March 30         Casa Grande                   3:45   Away
March 31          Kellis*                           3:45   Away
April 4              Sunnyslope*                 4:00   Away
April 6              Verrado                          4:00   Home
April 7              Sunnyslope*                  4:00   Home
April 11            Apollo*                          4:00   Home
April 12            Ironwood*                      4:00   Home
April 13             Apollo*                          7:00   Away
April 18             McClintock*                   4:00   Away
April 20             McClintock*(Senior Night) 4:00   Home

*5A Metro


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Maricopa High School softball team 2016. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School softball team hopes to have a strong performance with a senior-heavy roster in the 2016 season.

“We’re really hoping to make the playoffs this year,” head coach Brandi Howell said. “We have 11 seniors this season, so their experience should help. We’re really looking to make a mark.”

The Rams look to be balanced on both offense and defense. With so many veterans, the Rams will have plenty of firepower in both hitting and pitching aspects of the game.

“Hitting-wise, I think we should be strong,” Howell said. “I also think Amber Cramer will have a great year pitching.”

Maricopa will be dropping to Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III for the 2016 season. The Rams will also only play three returning playoff teams from 2015. The girls expect their experience at the higher levels of competition to help carry them through a moderate schedule.

“We’re looking to perform consistently throughout the year,” Howell said. “We have moved down a division this year. We will be moving back up next year, so we want to make a name for ourselves this season.”

To open the season, the girls finished second in the Agua Fria Tournament. Their overall record is 3-4. Friday and Saturday, the Rams host the annual Kristen Diehl Tournament.

Feb. 22        Agua Fria Tourney/Agua Fria            W 8-2
Feb. 24        Agua Fria Tourney/Florence             L 1-7
Feb. 24        Agua Fria Tourney/Youngkers           L 2-5
Feb. 26        Agua Fria Tourney/Agua Fria            W 6-3
Feb. 27        Agua Fria Tourney/Buckeye             W 8-3
Feb. 27        Agua Fria Championship/AF             L 4-10
March 1       @ Seton Catholic                               L 1-7
March 4-5    (H) Kristen Diehl Tournament
March 16      v. Marcos de Niza                              4 p.m.
March 18      v. Youngker                                        3:45 p.m.
March 22      v. Coolidge                                         3:45 p.m.
March 23      v. Betty Fairfax                                  3:45 p.m.
March 24      v. Casa Grande                                   4 p.m.
March 29     @ Estrella Foothills                         6 p.m.
March 31     @ North                                              3:45 p.m.
April 5          @ Poston Butte                                 7 p.m.
April 8           v. Fountain Hills                                3:45 p.m.
April 13        @ Veritas Prep                                   3:45 p.m.
April 15        @ Saguaro                                         3:45 p.m.
April 19        v. Apache Junction                            3:45 p.m.
April 20        @ Vista Grande                                 4 p.m.
April 22        @Tempe                                            3:45 p.m.
April 26        v. Higley                                              3:45 p.m.
April 27        @ Sahuarita                                       4 p.m.

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Amber Cramer (MUSD photo)

Maricopa High School senior Amber Cramer recently signed a Letter of Intent to play softball at Chandler-Gilbert
Community College.

Pitching for the Rams last season, Cramer had a 3.61 earned run average in 66 innings through 19 games. She struck out 33 while walking eight and giving up 112 hits. Her highest strikeout total was six against Higley.

Cramer pitched 11 games for the varsity team as a sophomore. She was 4-3 with an ERA of 3.85. She struck out 20 and walked only five for that season.

Going into her senior season later this semester, she has a career ERA of 3.71 with MHS.