Fri, Feb. 21

Will softball playoff streak reach 16?

Staff photo by Eric Lusk

MINGUS softball players can extend Steve Wombacher's coaching career into next week with a win at Page.

• The chance to play for yet another GCR championship;

• The chance to lock up yet another state playoff berth;

• The likely chance to face vaunted rival Flagstaff one more time (the season series is even at 1-1 right now);

• The chance to extend coach Steve Wombacher's coaching career into next week.

The Marauders and Sand Devils will lock up at 3:30 p.m. at the Page Softball Complex. Even though Mingus is the higher seed (a two seed taking on a three), Page is the designated host for this year's semifinals and championship.

Top-seeded Flagstaff will meet number five Sinagua in the other semifinal. The title game will be Saturday at 11 a.m.

Mingus (12-9) and Page (22-10) split their season series, with the Sand Devils taking game one of an April 5 doubleheader 4-3 and the Marauders coming back to win the nightcap 5-1.

Mingus will need another pitching performance like it got from Nicole Zettler in that second contest to best Page again. Zettler struck out eight and gave up just five hits (Lindy Wilburn, who is no longer with the team, pitched in the opener).

The Devils will counter with their ace, Diana Chitwood, who improved her record to 18-6 in Tuesday's 19-1 tournament win over Chinle. Chitwood has been battling injuries the past few weeks but still confounded the Wildcats with a slower version of her pitching style.

"Diana Chitwood did a great job against us (in April)," Marauder coach Steve Wombacher said.

Mingus also will need to rediscover its hitting stroke, which all but disappeared in losses at Flagstaff and at Sinagua last week. The Marauders managed just four hits and two runs in the two contests.

History should be on Mingus' side this weekend. Since moving from the Skyline Region to the Grand Canyon in 1996, the Marauders have made it to every tournament championship game — winning in 1996, 1997 and 2001.

The past five GCR title games have featured Mingus against Flagstaff. There's a good chance that match-up could materialize for a sixth-straight time this weekend.

The Marauders have another streak on the line as well — a Wombacher-coached softball team has qualified for the state playoffs in each of his 15 seasons at the helm. They'll need to reach Saturday's title game to push that number to 16.

Regardless, Wombacher has said he is retiring at the end of this school year. The state playoffs begin Tuesday, with tournament champs from every region hosting games.

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