"500 and COUNTING ..."

The Mesa Tribune, Monday, March 17, 1998 by Jeff Wolf

Milestone moment: Dobson coach Nancy Ellis earns hugs from her players, including Mary Geiogamah, after a 3-2 win over Marcos de Niza that gave Ellis her 500th career victory as a coach.

Dobson's Ellis attains milestone

Bunting to advance runner with one out late in a game when you're losing by two runs can be foolhardy.
But anyone questioning that strategy by Dobson softball coach Nancy Ellis would be be the fool.
That tactic by the 30-year coaching veteran enabled the Mustangs to rally past Marcos de Niza, 3-2, Monday afternoon and deliver the 500th victory of her coaching career.
"This is why nobody has 500," Ellis said. "Nobody will go 30 years and do this kind of stuff. But the kids came through."
Ellis started the day in the Marcos de Niza-McClintock softball tournament with a 498-242 record and moved to 499 when the Mustangs beat Gilbert, 2-0.
When the Marcos scored two runs in the first inning and held a 2-1 lead in the sixth, it looked like the milestone watch would continue for another day.
But Ellis doesn't like to procrastinate. And she made all the right moves in the bottom of the sixth.
Before the first pitch of the inning was thrown, she announced Kristi Kruger would pinch hit as the fourth batter of the inning. Even that was a little optimistic.
With one out, singles by Mary Geiogamah and Brandi Smith put runners at first and second. Kruger then followed Ellis' instructions and put down a perfect bunt to advance both runners. Elizbeth Harmon, who had a key triple in the win over Gilbert, singled up the middle on the first pitch for a 3-2 Mustangs lead.
"Once we got that bunt down and advanced people, I knew Elizabeth Harmon was good for a single," said Ellis, who has one state title since arriving at Dobson in 1982.
"I knew if she ripped one we were going to take a chance and go for it. That's what happens when you get old; life finally works for you."
Before she could get her players and coaches to sign a game ball, the team presented her with one already autographed. Not to be superstitious, the date of the feat was quickly added to the pre-signed ball.
"I thought the kids were feeling the pressure of this 500 thing," Ellis said. "We just needed to do it and get it out of the way."
"We were playing like the clouds all day; kind of slow and puffy."
While the offense might have been a little sluggish, pitcher Kristen Swetel was solid. Less than 15 minutes after shutting out Gilbert with seven strikeouts, she did not allow Marcos (2-8) an earned run and held the Padres hitless after the first inning.
The Mustangs (10-1) played Marcos without Jennifer Axtell, who leads the team with a .725 batting average, after the top of the first. Axtell, the regular catcher, suffered a groin injury Saturday. After playing first base against Gilbert, Axtell was moved to third against Marcos, but Ellis was concerned about chances of aggravating the injury.
"The kids wanted to do this, and we did it with extenuating circumstances," Ellis said.
"Now we can go back to playing regular ball."

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Created by: Coach Ellis 9.3.96 ... Last update: 3.17.98