There is a respectful man in Maricopa and he is coaching the varsity softball team.
Chris Ansley, the head softball coach, is a soft-spoken man who instills confidence and teaches respect to the girls of the Maricopa High School Rams’ softball team.
Meeting up with Coach Ansley prior to a game at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, one gets to know more about what makes him tick. The girls ended up dropping the game to the Caballeros on a sunny afternoon, but Ansley and the players were all smiles and looked toward the next day’s game.
Ansley, a 10-year resident of Maricopa, has run the gamut in coaching from Pop Warner football to high school track and field coach at his alma mater Tempe High School. Ansley originally is from Tempe and played football for the Buffaloes.
Ansley brings a coaching philosophy of “fear none and respect all” and it is represented in his consistently improving record. In his first season as head coach, Ansley nearly tripled the number of wins from four to 11. The 2012 season’s win total was increased to 14 and last year was the first winning season in recent memory with a 15-12 finish.
The 2013 team was packed with nine seniors, eight of them starters. The team was led by senior pitcher Alicia Portillo who finished the season 6-5 with an ERA of 1.15. Portillo started 10 games, completing nine of them with three shutouts. Portillo also led the team in several categories, including batting average (.506), hits (39), RBI (33) and home runs (6).
Other top hitters on the squad, Rani Gamboa and Ariel Ortega also graduated along with pitcher Andrea Wilson.
“He has great knowledge of the game,” said Javier Portillo, a former volunteer coach. “Whether it’s baseball or softball, he has done his homework and teaches the girls that.”
Portillo, or Coach J as the players call him, has been with some of the girls on the team as a coach since they began playing softball. His daughter Alicia was a team leader last season and junior outfielder Alicia is making big strides on the team.
“The amount of time Ansley sacrifices for the program is amazing,” Portillo said. “He does so much for these girls; they practice every day that there isn’t a game.”
Ansley is teaching the girls how to win, but he also is teaching them that life is more than softball; it is about life experiences and family. He strives to build a family atmosphere not only among the teammates but also within the community.
The 2014 team is proving they can compete and it is now time to make every coach’s goal – to make the playoffs and have a respectable run.
“There are no captains on the team,” Ansley said. “The seniors have risen to the top to take the lead.”
In the loss to Flowing Wells, the Rams were down 5-0 after the first inning but never gave up. The team came back and delivered three scoreless innings with only two base runners.
The final two innings of the game also showed the winning spirit that Ansley has instilled in these young women. When trailing 9-0, the Rams struck back with three stolen bases and an RBI single to spoil the shutout for Flowing Wells.
The next day playing Tucson’s Catalina Foothills High School was a different story.
The Rams hit the Falcons pitchers early and often and played a defensive gem with sophomore pitcher Amber Cramer taking a shutout into the seventh inning. The Rams would go on to win 6-1, splitting the Tucson series.
“Coach Ansley preaches a lot of repetition in practice,” said senior third baseman Made Byrd. “We do a lot of the same drills over and over again.”
Through the first nine games, Byrd paces the offense with a team-leading 19 hits, 14 RBI, 17 runs scored and a .633 batting average.
Fellow seniors, second baseman Chelsea Trejo and catcher Madi Moncel, are close behind Byrd with double-digit hits and runs scored.
“We are a much more aggressive team this year,” Moncel said. “Coach Ansley is extremely knowledgeable and offers up great constructive criticism.”
Trejo said she is pleasantly surprised at how well this team has come together.
“When we started this season, we had no idea how we were going to do,” she said. “Especially after the opening season tournament in Anthem. Now with our conditioning coach, positive motivation and constructive criticism from Ansley and all the coaches, we are really starting to grow as a team.”
Senior shortstop Rosie Naranjo said Ansley “has taught us to be leaders. … He has done so much for this team and spends so much time taking care of the program.”
Moncel adds: “You should see our field, it’s gorgeous. All that is due to Ansley, and we all respect him for all he does for us.”