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Lady Coyotes learning through miscues

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Lady Coyotes’ Nayelli Morales (7) takes a swing at a pitch in this file photo. (David Rocha Photo)

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No matter how much Roswell softball coach Art Sandoval tried to prepare himself, nothing prepares a coach who is used to winning to be patient, patient enough not to scare his young athletes with his intensity. No, Sandoval has learned to temper what he says and how he says it to his young team. Maybe being 4-8 at this time of the season with the schedule his Coyotes have played has him seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when they have played 6A teams early in the season.

The road doesn’t get any easier when they take on Hobbs (9-5) today in a doubleheader at Hobbs, which will complete their non-league schedule. For a team that has played eighth-graders and freshmen, this seems to be a season to learn his system and to develop over the summer. Sandoval can take solace in the fact that his team beat rival Goddard, 4-2 in the Lady Dogs Softball Tournament on Saturday.

“We are a young team,” Sandoval said. “I wanted us to bond as a group from this tournament and get better. At the first of the year, I explained to the kids that we’re going to make mistakes, and we are going to go through some growing pains. I wanted us to go to Artesia and play hard, play with some heart and see what we can get accomplished.”

After the Artesia tournament, Sandoval wants to use the time he has left to correct mistakes and fine-tune his team’s defense. He has made a switch at shortstop, moving Karissa Mesquita there for now. He has tried some different pitchers and worked on other combinations in the field and at the plate. Sandoval has two eighth-graders pitching in the circle. The Coyotes have lost one of their pitchers due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear. So far, Sandoval has used five pitchers and will continue to pitch by committee until an ace appears.

“I told the girls,” Sandoval said. “We can lose 20-0, and as long as I know you’re playing with heart, dignity, and respect and going as hard as you possibly can, I can take that. However, we are not going to take that. We are going to do things correctly.”

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The Lady Coyotes have shown flashes that they are coming of age, especially when they defeated Kirtland Central 12-2 in a payback game from last year’s tournament loss in a game this season at the Kristen Griego Tournament. His young team has played well enough to give him 200 wins for his career with a sweep over Clovis, 12-2 and 16-1 on Tuesday.

“First and foremost, it is not about me,” Sandoval said about winning his 200th game. “I’ve been very fortunate to have been a head coach for a long time. It is always about the kids. Those 200 wins mean it’s about the kids who have played where I have coached. You surround yourself with good people and a good coaching staff and good kids.”

Even though his team has taken their lumps in the early part of the season, Sandoval believes that playing the 6A teams will help his team when it comes to playing the No. 1 ranked Artesia Lady Dogs.

“I believe that we have a great, great future ahead of us,” Sandoval said. “I want us to stay together as much as we possibly can. I want us to eliminate some of the errors. I want to keep our team together for the next five years.”

In his 15 years of coaching at RHS, his teams have never missed the district tournament. In playing a lot of eighth-graders, Sandoval feels that if all things are equal in talent and skill level, he would prefer to play the younger athlete, because he will have more time with the younger player and the younger athlete has time to get better.

For now, the Lady Coyotes have taken some lumps, but they should be in the thick of things once district play starts. Outside of the Lady Dogs, it should be a battle for second-fourth place. How much Roswell has learned remains to be seen.

Roswell will open up its district schedule against Artesia at 4:30 p.m. on April 13 at Artesia.

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