Cowboy softball setting sights high

Camp Verde’s pitching rotation could have opponents seeing double this season.

West Region teams are used to facing left-hander Penny Barnes, an all-region performer who is now a senior. This season, they’ll also likely get a heavy dose of her younger sister, Phyllicia, a right-handed sophomore.

The sister duo could be the perfect pitching recipe in a revamped West Region where teams will be forced to play doubleheaders against all the other schools.

"We’re excited. I’ve got two pitchers and three catchers," said Camp Verde coach Debbi Miller. "I’m setting my goals high. Last year, (the region title) should have been ours. We have a real good chance at (winning) it this year."

The Cowboys lost a dogfight with Higley for the 2003 crown, finishing just one game behind the 12-2 Knights.

But Higley and third-place Fountain Hills have both moved to the South Region this season, setting the stage for a Cowboy takeover since no new teams have moved in.

Of course, conquering the region doubleheaders will be key. Since there are only six teams in the West this season instead of eight, schools must play each other three times instead of the usual two.

Because of travel concerns – River Valley and Parker are hundreds of miles from Camp Verde and Sedona for example – one meeting between each set of schools must be a doubleheader.

Enter the wonderful feeling for Miller of having two solid pitchers at her disposal.

Penny should retain her status as the number one hurler. Phyllicia, though, had a solid summer, leading a Verde Valley All-Star team to the state finals in Tucson.

"Penny has a little bit more control over her pitches and she has several pitches — a rise ball, a drop ball," Miller said. "Phyllicia, when she really gets fine-tuned, is going to be faster than Penny mainly because she’s a bigger girl.

"Phyllicia has a great arm in the outfield (when she’s not pitching) and she can hammer the ball."

The Cowboys have five seniors other than Barnes who will give the lineup plenty of experience – maybe the most experience the program has had in several years. Four of the five started last season – Tiffani Mathews (OF), Samantha Mundell (2B), Megan Reddell (SS) and Hannah Stanfield (1B).

The other senior, Shannon Riley, is a solid three-sport athlete who will be used as a utility player.

Junior Angel Allen returns at catcher, through she may play some in the outfield or at third base due to team depth in the two spot. Leydy Ojeda, a junior transfer from Bradshaw Mountain, also can play catcher and third base.

Kim Reddell, a sophomore, is the team’s third catcher. She may play some outfield as well.

Two other juniors return with varsity experience – outfielder Mandy Escoffier and infielder Brenda Miller. Other sophomores on the roster include Kellie Miller and Morgan Ostert, a pair of utility players.

"We are really solid," coach Miller said. "My infield is going to be tough. We’ve never had that kind of depth."

The junior varsity squad also features a number of gifted players, who could move up and contribute if needed. Ron Romero will coach the JV squad this season, made up of mostly freshmen.

"The next four years are going to be exciting," coach Miller said. "We’re going to be very competitive. It’s going to be fun to watch that (JV) team mature. They have knowledge and strategy already."

Parker and Sedona Red Rock look to be the biggest competitors in the region. Both finished around .500 in the West a year ago, and Sedona scored a huge 9-8 upset of champion Higley late in the season.

Cowboy fans will have to wait awhile to see their team play a game at home. Camp Verde opens the regular season in the Bourgade Catholic tournament at Rose Mofford in Phoenix on March 12-13.

The home opener is March 16 when Sedona comes for a visit.

After play in the Winslow tournament (March 19-20) and non-conference duels with North Region teams Winslow and Holbrook, Camp Verde moves into its full region schedule. The first doubleheader will be April 2 at home against Chino Valley.

Doubleheader games typically will start at 1 and 3 p.m.

"It’s good that I have so many kids," coach Miller said. "It’s going to be tougher on baseball, though (which is playing the same region schedule). They can’t use their pitchers like I can."

Sandi Reddell, Clint Teague and Heather Risk return to help Miller coach the varsity Cowboys.

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