The Pusch Ridge girls softball team is off to a 6-3 start, after their 16-0 win at Empire last Friday.
Last year, under Mike Alameda and Andrea Hendrickson, the Lions went 24-4-1 before being eliminated in the semifinals by Willcox, 15-3.
This year's squad is very young.
"No seniors," first-year coach BobVance said. "That's the good news."
There seems to be no shortage of hitters or runners.
"We've got a lot of speed and good hitters," Vance said.
Against the Ravens, leadoff batter Rachel Majors got on base four times, stole two bases and scored four runs. Corrie Ward had three hits, including a triple, and scored three runs. Last year, as a freshman, Ward batted .362 with nine runs batted in.
Vance contends his best hitters include Rachel Majors, Sarah Majors, Rachel Ward and Kaycee Thompson. These four, coincidentally are the team's first four hitters in the lineup.
Rachel Ward is coming off a season where she hit .505 with 21 runs batted in. Sarah Majors hit .371.
Rachel Majors is a freshman, while sisters Sarah and Rachel Ward are sophomores. Third baseman Thompson is the "veteran" of the lot in her junior year. Other juniors in the regular lineup are outfielders Nikki Hammond and Mariela Ramirez.
Ramirez had a triple, single and a walk Friday, while Hammond had two hits in the ninth spot.
"Hammond has about a .750 on-base percentage," Vance said. "We're strong throughout the lineup."
Against the Ravens, the Lions wreaked havoc on the base paths with their speed. They had several stolen bases, forced many wild pitches and passed balls, and always seemed to be taking extra bases, as they managed more runs than they got hits (13).
Vance has one concern about his team's youth.
"We get brain spasms as base runners sometimes. We tend to make mistakes being overaggressive." A couple of Lions were picked off on the bases. "But I'd rather make mistakes by being overaggressive, instead of underaggressive," Vance said.
"Defensively, we make some mistakes, but we have quickness."
The Lions had no errors at Empire. But it's the pitching that may be even more valuable than the defense.
Corrie Ward held the Ravens to one hit with six strikeouts in four innings. She has now allowed only two hits in the Lions' last three games, as they've outscored their opponents 43-3 during that stretch.
Last year, Ward was 24-4 with 198 strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA.
Despite their lack of experience, the Lions seem to have the offense, defense, and pitching to win a lot of games in 2010.
"I expect us to go deep into the playoffs," Vance said.