Lady Sundevils open the season at 5-2 after Roseanne Noedel Tournament
The season may still be young, but there’s already a completely different feel for this year’s Española Valley High School softball team.
In fact, head coach Robert Garcia hasn’t had a better feeling about any Lady Sundevils team he’s coached since beginning at the school.
“This team is one of the best ones I’ve had,” Garcia said. “They’ve been working together and practicing hard and it just seems to be working early.”
The Lady Sundevils (5-2) are already more than halfway toward last season’s win total of seven after the completion of the Roseanne Noedel Memorial Tournament March 21-23 at St. Michael’s High School’s Christian Brothers Athletic Complex.
Española’s first round opponent was none other than Albuquerque Academy, who was a district opponent last season and also happened to be the squad the Lady Sundevils defeated 5-4 on March 16 in the St. Pius X Tournament.
Hoping to cling onto a second victory over the Lady Chargers in five days, Española was a half-inning away of doing so, but Academy’s Alix Hamon won the game in the bottom of the eighth inning in extras with a walk-off, two-run home run to overcome a 3-2 Lady Sundevils lead and steal the game 4-3.
In the first game of the consolation side of the bracket on March 22, Española got a sneak peak of Pojoaque Valley High School before the teams play each other in district April 2.
The Lady Sundevils found themselves in a closely-contested battle with their district counterparts but were able to separate behind a three-run fourth inning for an 8-5 win.
With the game tied at 4-all in the fifth, Tayler Suazo hit an RBI single to score Sydnee Pollard and Autumn Vigil capped of the inning with an RBI double. The Elkettes got one run back in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI by Jessica Roybal, however, Pojoaque would strand Kaelynn Mondragon at second base in the sixth after the freshman was walked to lead off the inning.
Jazmin Roller added an RBI double in the top of the seventh for Española and then the Lady Sundevils’ Vigil — who took over pitching duties for Hailey Guinn in the fourth — forced Pojoaque’s first three batters in the bottom of the seventh into outs.
“Our defense (is going to be a big strength this season), it’s showed up big so far in all our games,” Garcia said. “Today, we let them hang in the game a little too long. We kinda didn’t want to show them too much.”
Senior Haley Ortega scored three runs while hitting two doubles to account for part of the 13 Española hits on the day. Eighth-grader Ashley Osegueda led the team with three hits, all resulting in RBIs.
“No (I didn’t see anything in Pojoaque’s pitching to help me), I just figured I needed to stay calm at all times and not be over anxious,” Ortega said. “My coach tells me that repeatedly, so I just stepped in the box, thought of nothing else, stayed calm and hit the ball.”
In the tournament’s fifth-place game, Española rallied for a 10-9 win over Class 2A’s Raton High School.
The Lady Sundevils jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead after two innings of play, but the Lady Tigers responded with two runs apiece in the third and fourth innings. With the game tied at 6-all, Española rallied for four runs in the sixth to grab 10-6 lead, and Raton would only be able to climb back within in a run before running out of outs in the seventh.
Again, Osegueda led the team with four hits on four at-bats, plus three RBIs and Roller and Ortega each added two hits apiece.
“I really think we can go far,” Ortega said about the season’s outlook. “I expect us to go to state and win districts. I expect nothing less of my team, because we are amazing, personally from my own opinion.”
The Lady Sundevils will participate in their third tournament in three weeks, this time kicking things off against a tough squad from Lovington High School (5-1) at 1 p.m., Thursday (3/28) in the first round of Rio Rancho High School’s Kristin Griego Tournament.