Softball in Tucson was so ridiculously good in the 1990s — “it was the golden age,’’ says former Flowing Wells High School state championship coach Armando Quiroz — that Tucson teams won nine state championships and finished second 10 times.
“There was so much talent in Tucson it was so hard just to get out of the local playoffs, a dogfight game after game,’’ remembers Quiroz. “When the playoffs began, I would think ‘here they come.’ Hopefully they thought the same about us.’’
After Quiroz’s Caballeros won the 1999 state championship in Class 4A, they were elevated to 5A for the 2000 season. Remarkably, they were even better.
Flowing Wells went 30-5 and now, 22 years later, Quiroz says “I should be criticized for losing five games with that team. There was no reason to lose a single game.’’
Quiroz’s Cabs also won a state title in 2002, and he was hired to be the head coach at Eastern New Mexico University, followed by 11 uber-successful seasons as Pima College’s head coach, in which he won 501 games.
He retired in June 2018 but modestly takes little credit for Flowing Wells’ epic 2000 state championship in which it beat 34-1 and No. 1-ranked Glendale Phoenix Deer Valley in the semifinals.
His lineup included future All-Big 12 Baylor pitcher/first baseman Ashley Monceaux; future Arizona Wildcat infielder Rebekah Quiroz, his daughter; future Arizona catcher Candace Abrams; future Oklahoma State third baseman Stephanie Nicholson; future ASU infielder Blair Holck; and all-city players Stephanie Gonzales, Bobbie Bell, Becky Linhart and Laughlin Hoskinson.
Monceaux was a franchise player, recruited first by Mike Candrea at Arizona before transferring to Baylor where she excelled under Quiroz’s Flowing Wells mentor, Bears assistant coach Mark Lumley.
“Ashley was only a sophomore in 2000 but she was dominant, as good as you could hope to get,’’ says Quiroz. “She threw 68 mph with a rise ball you could not hit. I felt and still do that we had the best infield in the state, but you wouldn’t know it because Ashley would strike out 14 or 15 every game; the other team rarely put the ball in play. It was a dream season. We were stacked.’’
Prep softball in Tucson in the ’90s was so good that Salpointe Catholic, CDO, Sahuaro, Sabino and Pueblo won state titles. Desert View, Santa Rita and Tucson all finished No. 2. But Flowing Wells began the new decade, in 2000, by extending the excellence, becoming the first Arizona softball team ever to win a state championship a year after being bumped up a classification.
Quiroz had to wait more than 30 years for his own state championship. As a senior infielder on Tucson High’s 1967 baseball team, he knew the pain of losing in the state semifinals — the Tucson championship game — when the Badgers lost to Cliff Myrick’s state title Catalina Trojans.
After working in the once-booming Southern Arizona movie industry for almost 25 years, Quirioz injured his back and decided to return to school and start coaching. Lumley hired him in the early ’90s to help out with the Flowing Wells program. When Lumley left for Baylor, the Flowing Wells administration had difficulty deciding on a replacement.
They finally offered the job as co-head coach to both Quiroz and Arizona’s 1997 NCAA softball player of the year Jenny Dalton.
“To be honest, when the athletic director asked me who I would hire, I told them it would be impossible to turn down Jenny,’’ Quiroz says with a chuckle. “But it all worked out; her husband (Marc Hill) was soon hired to be a strength and conditioning coach at Kentucky, and we did OK at Flowing Wells.’’
Quiroz’s rise to success reflects on his late father, Armando Franco Quiroz, who grew up an orphan, living and working on a ranch in the Rincon Mountains and never had a chance to play baseball as a kid.
“My dad had a rough life; he spent three years in combat in the Pacific islands in World War II and worked on the railroad thereafter. But he loved baseball and always took me to baseball games. That’s where I got my start.’’
Now Armando’s daughter carries on the love and excellence in sports. Rebekah Quiroz has been Pima College’s head softball coach the last four seasons.
“I sit in the stands and watch but maybe I’ll get back in the dugout next season and help out as much as I can,’’ says Armando Quiroz. “Once this game gets in your blood, it just keeps flowing.’’
Contact sports columnist Greg Hansen at 520-573-4362 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @ghansen711
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