For the Roswell Lady Coyotes softball fans, it may seem like yesterday as softball season approaches. Many can’t help but to look back to a year ago in March to a game against Kirtland Central.
It was their first game of the state playoffs with perhaps coach Art Sandoval’s best team and chance to win a blue trophy to this point in his career. It was certainly his last chance to win one with daughter Sheyanne, the starting shortstop, who was a senior.
With runners on first and second base and one out, a hitter hit a slow roller to shortstop, as Sandoval came charging in to field the ball, she was brutally blindsided by a Central Kirtland base runner.
The hit was so vicious that Sandoval laid sprawled on the ground for 10 minutes without moving. The game was delayed for 30 minutes before resuming. Coach Sandoval was disturbed that the official did not call the runner out for running his daughter over, and that all runners were safe.
Sandoval protested the game, but it was too little too late, because the hit not only shocked the Coyotes as they lost, 2-0, but that loss sent them into the loser’s bracket and changed the course of their tournament, as they wanted for their appeal to be denied.
In a scene reminiscent of nine months earlier when it was all over for the Lady Coyotes after they were beaten by Alamogordo, 5-1 to end their season, one of the most enduring photos was of the Sandovals in tears as they embraced each other.
“I missed the connection me and my dad had,” Sheyanne said. “I miss playing with all my high school teammates. I miss the things we did on and off the field.”
Nine months later, Sheyanne Sandoval is on a Trinidad State Trojans softball bus pulling into the Coyote softball complex as her junior college team gets ready to practice at the Coyote complex on their way to Midland for a tournament.
As soon as the bus stops and the doors open, the first person Sheyanne seeks out is her father, Art Sandoval. Both Sandovals smile and hug each other for what seems like an eternity as they catch up and talk.
For the Lady Trojans who are a Division I junior college, the season is still young, with a 1-4 record, they are headed to play in the Midland tournament. At that tournament they will go 1-4 and 2-8 on the season. Softball is more than a sport; it has become a business to Sandoval, who has been playing softball since arriving on campus in August, waking up to do conditioning drills at 5 a.m. and then going to class.
“It means a lot to me as a parent and coach,” Coyote coach Art Sandoval said. “Most importantly what she has done for herself. She’s always been a hard worker. This has been a blessing in disguise because she has done well academically and athletically. I’ve always explained to her to use softball to get an education. It’s a big deal of mine to see any kids, but especially your kid going to the next level.”
Sheyanne’s biggest adjustment hasn’t been on the field with the speed of the pitches or playing the game against top-notch competition. However, off the field academics matter.
“I always tell kids about softball,” Art Sandoval said. “There’s nothing soft about softball. With softball, you’re going to have to work your tail off to get to the next level. Statistically, a lot of kids don’t make it to the next level. Every year we have someone go on to the next level. Our program is about heart and dedication.”
Sheyanne Sandoval has taken her game to the next level. She has appeared in 11 of the 12 games and has six hits on the season with five RBIs knocked in. Sandoval plays first base, catcher and shortstop. One of the biggest adjustments for her was getting used to the different pitches pitchers throw and their speeds.
Sandoval is third on the team in hitting with a batting average of .222, with players who have over 20 at-bats on the season. Sandoval is the leading fielder on the team with a fielding average of .971 and has committed only one error on the season.
I like that Sheyanne (Sandoval) is a true utility player,” Trojan coach Steve Swazo said. “She can play shortstop. She can catch. At the college level, we are looking forward to recruiting athletes. She has been our designated player (who) played shortstop. I look forward to big things from Sheyanne (Sandoval).”
Sheyanne credits playing softball in the summertime for helping her with the different pitches she sees at the college level. She would like to go to a Division I school and continue her softball career after her Trinidad career is over.
“I would love to play for Oklahoma University,” Sheyanne said. “I want to work on everything this year. It is a lot of work to play at this level. My dad was hard on me all throughout high school and didn’t take it easy on me. That helped me a lot when I got to college. I would tell other athletes, it is a lot of work, but if they keep working hard they can do it. Don’t take anything for granted, play every game like it’s your last game.”