There's something new in the air at Marana this year. And it's not the players on the Lady Tigers softball team.
George Corona is in his first year coaching the Tigers, and the former Flowing Wells skipper has helped to engineer a remarkable turnaround.
Last year, the Tigers missed the playoffs with a losing record. This year, the team is beating all comers, pushing its record to 16-2 record with a 14-2 win at Catalina Foothills last week.
During spring break, the Tigers pulled off their biggest conquest to date, winning the Badger Invitational and topping Sierra Vista Buena 5-1 in the championship game. Marana's offense had scored in double figures in every game leading up to the finals. It dominated the opposition 79-2 behind pitchers Shayna Binnion and Courtney Lacaillade.
During the tournament, the Tigers blasted 12 home runs, four of them by Lacaillade.
"Our coaching has improved us," said Sammie Merriman, who homered, had three hits, and four runs batted in against Foothills, and also homered in the championship game win over Buena.
"We're having a lot of fun," Merriman said. "Our coaches have us trying a lot of ideas."
"It's not about me," Corona said. "I attribute it to their (players) abilities."
The team has three seniors, all named as co-captains early on. They are Binnion, Jessie Wengert and Kristi Shepherd.
"They've done a wonderful job," Corona said. "They've taken control."
Corona points out the team has good chemistry, with everyone on the same page.
"They trust me. I trust them."
Marana's offense has been bear amazing. In the win over Foothills, the Tigers had 19 hits and did not strike out.
"We're pretty deep," Corona said. "We have very few strikeouts."
They also batted around in consecutive innings against Foothills, as 10 different players had hits. Binnion and Wengert each had three hits. "Jessie Wengert only plays the school season," Binnion said. "She doesn't play clubs, because of other time commitments. She's a really good hitter.
"Hitting is the biggest strength on the team," Binnion said. "It's improved a lot over the last year."
Shepherd banged out a couple of hits from the number nine spot on Tuesday, while Chelsea Gourdin and Jenna Bodman also added two hits. Alex Steinmehl blasted a triple and hit a sacrifice fly.
Pitching is also a strong weapon for Marana.
Binnion pitched five innings in the rain at Foothills last Tuesday, and allowed two runs, striking out five and walking no one.
While some top-notch teams ride one pitching workhorse, the Tigers have two very good pitchers who shared equal time in the Badger tournament. Lacaillade also pitched a lot of innings.
"I've experienced not having another pitcher," Binnion said. "And it's not fun."
Right now, the Lions are having fun, winning games with outstanding hitting, pitching, and team chemistry.
"Our whole defense is really solid right now," Binnion said.
"Our team is playing well together. I'm really confident we might win at state this year."