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Lady Coyotes take two from Goddard

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Goddard's Amber Aguilar keeps her eye on the ball against the Roswell Lady Coyotes. (Steve Notz Photo)

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The storyline coming into the year for the Roswell and Goddard softball teams were that they would be rebuilding. Rebuilding for two very different reasons. Roswell was a dominant program for years. Coach Art Sandoval lost several key seniors that have taken their talents to college to compete on a higher level. This was the year he and the Lady Coyotes would get their comeuppance. As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

After losing their first game to Lovington at home and Sandoval gave his young team a spirited pep talk, to end his patience and let his team know it’s time to play softball. Make mistakes but not excuses and just keep playing. After defeating the No. 2 team in the state on Tuesday 4-3 in the bottom the seventh with a walk-off double by senior Nayelli Morales scoring Gabriella Garza from second base, the Lady Coyotes have been on a roll. They picked up where they left off on Tuesday, by sweeping crosstown rival Goddard 13-2 and 15-7 in a doubleheader played at Roswell on Friday.

Goddard (6-9, 0-6) is rebuilding because their program had atrophied from lack of interest and direction. First-year coach Katie Shanor has a monumental task ahead of her, as errors undid her team in both games. Shiner has some building blocks to work with and it will take time, as she is playing young players in key positions. What the Lady Rockets have going for them is they have not quit on themselves, or their coach.

In the first game, Roswell scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning, with errors being a big part of the reason seniors Nayelli Morales and Gabriella Garza will remember their Senior Day. In the second inning, Goddard came back and scored two runs to make the score 4-2 and played tough until the fourth inning when Roswell scored two runs due to errors.

Junior Jazmyn Prudencio pitched well for the Lady Rockets as she changed speed getting several Lady Coyotes to swing and be in front of pitches. Prudencio could not overcome poor fielding as the floodgates opened for Roswell in the fifth inning, when they ended up scoring seven runs as the game was called due to the mercy rule.

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In the game for Roswell, the highlight was freshman pitcher Valaree Manzanares going the distance. She was unhittable at times and did not walk anybody.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Karissa Mesquita hit a two-run homer to give Roswell a 6-2 lead.

“The game against Lovington gave us momentum,” RHS coach Art Sandoval said. “We’re young, we played six underclassmen the second game. We did what we had to do. We will celebrate the victories tonight but get back to work on Monday.”

Game 2

Roswell 15, Goddard 7

Roswell softball coach Art Sandoval started his eighth-grade daughter Victoria in the circle for her first career start. In the first inning, it looked to be a bad decision as she struggled with location, speed and was hit. Sandoval allowed three earned runs in the first inning. She was able to pull it together with the aid of her coaches, and teammates believing in her as they talked her through her rough spots.

In the bottom of the first inning, her teammates came back and picked her up by scoring two runs. Goddard had to feel good about their chances of splitting as they had their ace going for them, Jordan Rincon, in the circle. Rincon had plenty of pop on her fastball and riseball — it was the errors that undid her as Roswell scored four runs in the second inning, five in the third inning and one in the fourth and fifth. Once again, Mesquita hit a home run for the second game in a row.

“Since the Rio Rancho tournament, I struggled a little,” Mesquita said. “I started finding my groove, I’m seeing the ball better and it is becoming more of a flow. The first home run was an inside fastball and the second home run was a curveball. We can hit Artesia’s pitchers. The win against Lovington gave us the momentum to win.”

The good for Goddard was Rincon starting to hit her spots and have command with her pitches. In the sixth inning, Goddard’s Kristina Casaus hit a ball out of the park to make the score, 15-7. Goddard had many opportunities to quit and didn’t.

“I was not expecting to hit a home run this game,” Casaus said, “because I have not been hitting. I guess you get it when you least expect it.”

Coach Shanor has not let her team quit and keeps making moves to find the answers — those are the things a first-year coach will go through. Next season, Shanor and her staff will have more answers to the questions than they have now. Now is about establishing and changing the culture for the softball program with the second-half of district play, something she has addressed with her team at the beginning of the season.

“This is a tough year for us,” Shanor said. “These girls are getting used to new coaches — essentially it’s a new program. It’s a big transition for all of us and I think we are getting there. Each game we are fixing things a little at a time.

With the first half of district play over with, they still have a chance to make some noise. Frankly, the main difference in the two teams is the belief level they can get it done. Goddard needs to get back to where they were when they won six games in a row.

“I don’t like losing,” Shanor said. “If we lose, we better go out with a fight. Our girls never quit. We fought until the last inning and I’m really proud of that.”

Roswell (8-13, 5-3) seems like they are starting to find their chemistry as a team. Players are picking each other up after a mistake, coaches are talking players through situations and where to go with the ball, and when they make a mistake, it is encouraging.

“Our kids are bonded right now,” Sandoval said. “It’s not how you start it’s how you finish. I’m very proud of my kids, they are starting to play hard and connect. I thought Victoria (Sandoval) struggled a little bit at first in her first varsity start as a pitcher. I never thought about pulling her once her teammates wanted her to stay in. They had her back.”

Roswell has regained their swag from prior years — they’re playing loose like they expect to win. If Sandoval can keep his players playing the way they are in the second-half of district play with six games remaining and they make it to state, this will be one of Sandoval’s best coaching jobs in years.

Roswell plays at Artesia at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Goddard is at Lovington at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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