When Maricopa High softball coach Tom Dugan turns to his right-hand girl, it’s an Etzel sister. But then, his left-hand girl also is an Etzel twin.

Emma and Alyssa Etzel are seniors taking their last run for the Lady Rams, excited to make even more memories together with their team.

The Etzel twins — Alyssa (left), a left-handed outfielder-infielder, and Emma, a right-handed pitcher-outfielder.

Although twins, they’re not identical, they say. In fact, their dominant hands are opposite. Emma is a right-handed pitcher and outfielder, Alyssa a left-handed outfielder and infielder.
“I love being teammates, it’s hard to imagine not being teammates,” Emma said.

The sisters decided to stay together through college and will be headed to Wayland Baptist University in Texas, to further their athletic and academic careers this fall.

“We’ve always done everything together,” Alyssa said. “We’re even each other’s throwing partners.”

“We had the idea of going to different colleges because it would be a different experience, since we are always together,” Emma added. “But later on, we decided we would rather stick together.”

Ari Cox is another senior to keep an eye on this season. Aside from being a Lady Rams star, Cox is an outstanding student and member of the ROTC.

She recently received two congressional nominations and the J-100 Scholarship, granting her a 100% paid tuition at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

“They’re just great young ladies,” Dugan said. “I might have opened some doors, gave some words of wisdom, but look, they did it all on their own.”

Dugan is anticipating another momentous year for the Lady Rams’ varsity with 18 strong players. Dugan’s goal is to make the top 16 and the 6A playoff field. Last year, Maricopa was 19th.

“We’re really trying to pitch better,” Dugan said. “We can teach a lot of things, but pitching is another animal.”

Dugan sometimes dedicates entire practices to pitching — filming the throw and perfecting the nit-picky mechanics of the ball’s trajectory. So come game time, it should be like target practice.

Fostering a sense of family builds the base for success, he said.

“Softball is a difficult sport,” Dugan added. “You fail about 70% of the time, so we have to figure out how to deal with that.”

Spending time with each other outside of the diamond is just as important. The Lady Rams get together once a week for a team dinner, allowing the girls to sit down, socialize and get to know each other.

Dugan wants the girls to lean on each other and create bonds that transfer onto the field.
“I try to teach them to be focused inside the gates and have fun on the outside,” Dugan said.