Arielle Cano is about to get sized up for a ring.
The former Mountain Pointe softball slugger spent last weekend in Clinton, Miss., helping Phoenix College to the NJCAA Division II national title.
The sophomore and her teammates had a major celebration Saturday in the middle of the infield at Traceway Park after knocking off the defending champions, Louisiana State–Eunice.
“It was awesome because I never experienced anything like it,” Cano said. “Everyone was excited, coaches were crying and it was just crazy.”
Phoenix College came in as the second seed in the double-elimination and lost in the semifinals to LSU-Eunice in the semifinals.
After beating Jones County Community College in the consolation finals, the Bears (56-15) had to beat LSU-Eunice twice to get the title.
Phoenix College won Game 1, 5-1, to force the winner-take-all game and came away with a 2-1 victory.
“They lit a fire under our butts because they said they were going to win two (national titles) in a row,” Cano said. “They even did a rap (video). We put an end to that.”
Cano, a sophomore at the two-year college, was in a platoon situation at first base after getting the majority of the starts as a freshman.
On the season, she hit .247 (20 of 81) with 14 runs, five doubles, a triple with six home runs and 31 RBIs after hitting .261 (40 of 153) with 29 runs, 10 doubles, 12 home runs and 43 RBIs as a freshman.
“I didn’t do as well as I wanted to,” she said. “It didn’t matter because the whole team was there for each other. We were doing good so I just tried to get back on track as soon as I could. It was a team effort all year.”
Phoenix College coach Heinz Mueller, who won eight national titles since taking over the program in 1990, said Cano was a major contributor despite getting lesser playing time.
“She is a very good leader on our team and probably our best defensive player,” he said. “I thought she matured greatly since (arriving on campus). Arielle is a very physical hitter and she had a good career.”
The next step appears to have Cano heading to Northwood University near Dallas as the coach was at the tournament and showed interest in Cano and three of her teammates.
“Hopefully it all works out and we can get an apartment together,” said Cano, who wants to major in psychology, but would have to switch to business at Northwood. “It looks like a great opportunity.”
Wherever Cano ends up, it will be hard to duplicate the season the Bears had simply because of the presence of one of her teammates.
One of Phoenix College’s top pitchers was 37-year-old Gina Van Arsdall.
“It was like having another coach on the field with us,” Cano said. “She could yell at us and be there for us at the same time.
“It really took us to a different level. Not only was she a great pitcher, but we always felt like we were going to win with her on the mound.”
And as it turned out, no one at the NJCAA DII level did that better than the Bears.
“It was an incredible year,” Cano said. “No one got down after (the loss in the semifinals) and we knew if we got another shot that we could get it done.’
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.