May 31, 2006 - Wherever Dana Alcocer pitches, championships seem to follow.
The former Canyon Del Oro High School grad was among 12 freshmen on this year's Pima Community College's softball team that won the National Junior College Athletic Association national title on May 20 in Plant City, Fla.
The Aztecs (60-10) completed their run to glory as a No. 4 seed, knocking off the No. 3 seeded Gulf Coast College in the championship game to win its second national title in three years. Coincidentally, Pima's 2004 national title also came at the expense of Gulf Coast College.
Alcocer played an instrumental role in all five of the Aztec's wins, earning her the nod as the tourney's Most Valuable Player.
"She's a winner and going to do whatever it takes to be successful," said PCC head coach Stacey Iveson. "She's got a great mentality on the mound and I think that carries over to her teammates."
That winning attitude and bulldog mentality has transferred over from high school where Alcocer pitched CDO to state title in 2005, the school's last year in the Class 5A.
At nationals, she hurled 24 2/3 innings winning three games and saving two more. The highlight of the tourney came in a thrilling 10-inning performance against Odessa College (Texas). Alcocer went the distance for the Aztecs and got the win when Amanda Duran hit a walk-off two-run homerun for the 4-2 win.
Shannon Andersen bailed the Aztecs out hours later by hurling a four-hitter to shut down Florida's Indian River Community College 3-0. Alcocer came on to get the save.
The Aztecs sealed their championship run with a 3-2 win over Gulf Coast. The national title was the fourth consecutive for the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. Central Arizona College won it all in 2003 and 2005.
This year's title wasn't a wire-to-wire run for Pima. Before entering the national tourney, the Aztecs had their backs to the wall in the regional tournament; needing two wins out of the loser's bracket over ACAC rival Central Arizona to advance to the championship tourney.
"They really did a lot of growing throughout the course of the year," said Iveson. "We had talked about it since day one that our goal was to win a national championship and that it wasn't going to be an easy task but it was definitely doable."
Next year, Pima will be the seasoned veterans when they go for two-in-a-row.
Iveson will add eight players to this season's 12 freshman next year, including Pat Memale - Alcocer's former teammate at CDO - and Cassie McClure from Ironwood Ridge High School. Pima has relaxed it school policy about recruiting only Southern Arizona players but this year's squad is entirely comprised of local talent. With a season such as this one, the threat of players leaving the program, following scholarships to four-year schools, is a legitimate concern for Iveson but one that won't cause the coach to lose sleep at night.
"I know everybody is pretty excited right now talking about back-to-back national championships," said Iveson. "There's going to be offers that are put on the table to these girls and it will be interesting to see what happens."
As for Iveson, she will now jump to her other team and her role as head coach of the Arizona Heat of the National Pro Fastpitch League.