The diamonds at Desert Vista were anything but sparkling with clarity.

The Desert Vista softball program has been in a rut for years and even the usually highly competitive baseball team hit a down cycle.

With as much athletic talent roaming the halls of the school, it was only a matter of time before each turned it around.

This is the year, especially for the softball program.

Desert Vista is 16-8 overall and 10-3 in the Division I power rankings through Wednesday’s action with just five games remaining and appear to be in line for postseason berth.

Not bad for a program that was 30 games under .500 in the previous five years.

And no one is probably happier about it than Thunder coach Chris Crowl, who is in his sixth season running the program.

“It’s been one of those years that feels like we are getting over the hump,” he said. “The kids are coming together. I am very pleased.”

Crowl is trying to keep the players focused without thinking too far ahead as the Thunder, which was sixth in the power rankings as of Thursday morning, host Mountain Pointe on Friday with an eight-game winning streak on the line. Keeping them focused isn’t too hard considering the positive atmosphere around the program now compared to the blahs of years past.

“The girls have responded very well and it has been neat to see,” he said. “We are excited but we are still looking at it one game at a time. We want to peak at the right time and constantly strive to get better.”

The baseball team missed the postseason last year after losing on the final day of the regular season and barely got in the year before.

It wasn’t the usual level of expectations that the Thunder had come accustomed to, but they never fell into the non-competitive stage. After all, if missing the postseason for the first time in seven seasons is rock bottom than the overall picture is still pretty solid.

Now, the Thunder is back to playing at a pretty high level that was buoyed by twice knocking off rival and defending state champion Mountain Pointe in a span of four days at the end of March.

“It definitely meant a lot to us and was a confidence booster,” senior pitcher Luke Leftwich said. “This team wants to work and we are out here to get better. It starts at practice and we always have a great effort and it carries over to our games.”

The Thunder, who made the state semifinals in three times from 2005 to 2009, began the week 13th in the power rankings but after a 4-3 loss at Horizon they dropped to 17th. Overall, Desert Vista is 11-12 overall and 8-5 in power point games.

Desert Vista closes the year with five straight home games and has a great shot of improving its place in the rankings with some tough games against teams like Brophy and Salpointe Catholic.

“We always want to keep working hard in order to get better,” he said. “Until we are No. 1.”

The softball team has really been a great story after going 48-78 over the previous five seasons.

It’s amazing what a little offense can do for you.

“Our hitting has really been the difference,” Crowl said. “Danielle (Block) has been our top pitcher and has improved every year, but a lot of times (in years past) her pitching went to waste.

“Now we have the offense to back her up. She doesn’t have to be perfect. She can give up a run or two and still win. That wasn’t the case before.”

Junior catcher Alyssa Cerminara (.453, 4 home runs and 26 RBIs), junior outfielder Rebecca Perez (.444, 28 runs. 4 doubles) and senior all-everything Emily Panther (.351, 25 runs and 26 RBIs) have provided most of the punch for Block (13-8, 1.89 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 122 innings).

“It’s been great seeing these girls come together,” Crowl said. “Some of these players have been through a lot to get to this point and I am proud that they stuck it out.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSKodaAFN.

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