Winslow is tired of state runner-up endings

March 28, 2014 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365

Winslow High’s softball program’s streak of losing a state championship game sits at three and it also lost another title game in the past five seasons, so there’s no need to tiptoe around what exactly the program wants this season — a state championship victory.

“This is the year we are going to send the seniors on a high note,” Winslow’s second-year coach Kelli Fifelski said.

Taylor Baca. Katonya Begay. Renee Bollin. Halle Hayes. Jelesia Hayes. Megan Lymer.

Those are the six Winslow seniors who’ve seen another team savor the spoils of winning a title three times. Fed up probably doesn’t even begin to describe how those seniors feel about the past.

But so far they and their teammates are playing like champions this season, winning their first 16 games of the season before the sectional portion of their schedule begins. The pitching is good and so is the defense for Winslow, which received even more good news recently with the return of Bollin, who tweaked a shoulder sliding into home during a game early this year. 

That injury forced her to sit out some games, but Bollin picked up where she left off, hitting a double in her first at-bat after returning from her injury. At third base, she showed off her strong arm and cat-quick reactions after bunts.

Bollin had a .468 average and 33 RBI’s last season, but last year’s hitting leader was Halle Hayes (.685 average in 2013), who also finished with a team-high 64 innings and 76 strikeouts in the circle. Back problems have slowed Hayes this season in the circle, however, but not at the plate, where Hayes was hitting .455 this season.  

Winslow is blessed with depth and versatility this year, and it was easy for Fifelski to move Baca (7-0, 1.13 ERA), the team’s cleanup hitter, into the role of ace. Baca’s velocity has improved, coach said.

Winslow also is using another dual threat, Richelyn Villanueva (2.96 ERA), in the circle. Villanueva is one of six juniors who are also contributing this year along with the seniors.

“Mentally, they are ready to take it (title) this year,” Fifelski said.