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Watson eases into new gig: Lady Dust Devils don’t miss a beat as former player takes reins in 2019

May 1, 2019

MOHAVE VALLEY — River Valley High School first-year head softball coach Kathleen Watson eased into an excellent situation, as her Lady Dust Devils were pretty much a well-oiled machine when she took the reins this spring.

The No. 2-seeded Dust Devils, who beat the Safford High School Lady Bulldogs 12-2 during the first round of the 3A 2019 Arizona Interscholastic Association Softball State Championship on Saturday at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix, will take on the No. 7-seeded Tucson Sabino High School Lady Sabercats at 7 p.m. on Friday at Rose Mofford in the second round.

Watson, who was a Lady Dust Devil until 2009 before playing softball for the Chandler-Gilbert Community College Coyotes for two seasons and then for the California Lutheran University Regals for two more seasons, was an assistant coach for the River Valley softball team in 2018, and her squad’s quest is to win the state title this season after falling in the semifinals three campaigns in a row.

“We set team goals to just score every innning and we focus on getting the little things done,” Watson said. “And so if your job is to get on or your job is to move the runner or just to drive them in ... we’ve been focusing on just getting that one task done and that’s just helping us produce more.

“We looked a lot at the beginning of the year at our RBI and we just didn’t have a lot. We were leaving a lot of runners on, so we refocused and said we’re going to start driving them in. We’re not going to leave our friends; we want to bring them home safe.

“The kids have really taken into that and they’re driving them in and it’s just helping the scoreboard and making our pitchers feel comfortable, too.”

As powerful as River Valley’s offense has been, Dust Devils pitchers Chloe Hibbard and Kortney Fletcher have not allowed their foes to feast on their offerings, which have been stingy — at best.

“When you always have good pitching it helps you stay in the game, it helps our defense get comfortable, it helps when our offense .... they’re kind of going hand in hand right now.

“They feel comfortable when we’re scoring runs and we feel comfortable when they’re striking kids out. With them hitting their spots, it’s like right now, the kids are starting to feel good on offense, on defense and everybody is kind of just playing together as a team.”

Having a half-dozen seniors has made Watson’s job much easier.

“They’re a great group of kids,” Watson said. “We’ve got six seniors ... ” she continued. “They’ve got so much heart; they put so much into this program, and they are pretty much the heart of our lineup.

“And, they know that they are expected to be positive leaders and they do that for our underclassmen, and I’m proud to be able to coach them this year.”