ALBUQUERQUE — As the Piedra Vista softball team started the season, questions loomed about its experience in key areas.
The No. 1 Lady Panthers answered those questions with what head coach Kevin Werth called the most dominant state tournament performance in PV history as his squad wrapped up its ninth straight 4A title with a 12-3 victory against No. 2 Aztec on Saturday at the University of New Mexico's Lobo softball field in Albuquerque.
"We've had some good teams, but these girls are unreal," said Werth, whose team won four games in three days by a combined score of 52-7. "We've always focused on the process. We've never worried about who was out there or who we were playing. I can't say enough about my staff, too. We scout and do a great job preparing our kids."
PV scored four runs in the top of the first inning and led the remainder of the contest.
"That's huge to get a good start and get going," Werth said.
Sophomore catcher Haley Parson jump started the rally with an RBI single to score Tyra Garcia.
"I just went in with the mindset that my team really needed me, and I needed to play my best when it mattered most," said Parson, who had three RBIs in the win. "I did everything I'd learned in practice these last four months and hit the ball hard for my team."
The Lady Panthers added two more runs on RBI singles from Tegan Woosley and Autumn Begay.
"That was really important because it got us going," said Begay, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI. "I can't explain how good this feels. To win nine in a row is amazing."
The fourth run scored from third base after an illegal pitch by Aztec starter Angela Minjarez.
"The umpires came out today looking for illegal pitches and that took Angela right out of her game," Aztec head coach Jose Santistevan said.
A couple of PV errors in the bottom of the first inning led to two Lady Tiger runs.
Taylor Santistevan and Alix Johnson came up with RBIs in the inning to capitalize on the Lady Panthers' mistakes.
"We felt good and were ready to go this morning," Jose Santistevan said.
The PV offense exploded again in the top of the fourth inning for five runs.
Parson and Halie Hutson had RBI doubles in the rally to help put the game away for the Lady Panthers.
Sophomore Megan Risner finished the game strong for PV in the circle, throwing a complete game while allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits.
"Once I got out there, I started to relax," Risner said. "It was so fun, and I'm glad I got to be a part of it."
Parson said the sophomore pitcher-catcher combination provided a chance for the two players to grow together during the season.
"This was a lot like 2012 when there was a new pitcher and a new catcher, and nobody believed in us," she said. "We worked in the mornings and afternoons for three and a half months straight to prove everyone wrong. We did that today, and we worked our butts off for it."
The five seniors on the roster — Hutson, Danielle Ortiz, Tabor Woosley, Breanna Salas and Makayla Duncan — ended their careers knowing nothing but title winning seasons.
"Our program continues to grow," Werth said. "We've got some kids coming back, and we'll keep battling."
For Aztec, Santistevan said his team will miss their two seniors — Minjarez and Johnson — but with seven returning starters, he expects to be back next season battling PV again for the title.
"I'm playing six freshman. We're not going anywhere," he said. "We'll be ready to go next year."