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The No. 4 sports moment of the year

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The Dexter softball team won their fourth consecutive state championship on May 11. (J.T. Keith File Photo)

The hardest thing to do in sports is to repeat, especially with a group of high school athletes. What Dexter softball coach Kim Smith accomplished in her final season may never be done again in Chaves County.

Smith is a master motivator and because she knows her team well, she got them to believe in themselves and to play loose under pressure. It wasn’t easy — Dexter would lose two games in a row to Loving in a doubleheader played at Loving, 5-3 and 1-0, with ace pitcher Bryana Munoz, (Munoz is pitching at University of Texas at El Paso).

After that loss, the Lady Demons would go on to win their final six games of the season and face their nemesis in the championship game. To get to the championship game, Dexter defeated Lordsburg, 15-0. Dexter crushed Laguna Acoma, 13-3, and Tularosa, 9-2.

To start the championship game, Dexter didn’t look good when Munoz gave up a home run to the first batter she faced in Lorisa Martinez. Munoz settled down and pitched in and out of jams throughout the day, none bigger than in the fourth and fifth innings when Loving threatened to tie the game with the bases loaded and no outs.

When Munoz gave up the run, she settled down and so did Dexter, who would end up coming back in the first inning to take a 3-1 lead. With the additional runs, Munoz found her groove and survived the threats run to win the game, 4-1.

Munoz struck out the next batter and ended up getting a hitter to pop out and then ground out to first base to end the game.

No one could know that this would be coach Smith’s last dance as a coach. Smith had been ill during the tournament. She had her coaches coach on the bases at some at-bats. She was seen receiving oxygen during some of the games.

“All season long,” Smith said, “we tried to keep the pressure off of the kids. We just went about our day-to-day routine and focused on that day. We never talked about winning No. 4. We talked about today.”

Smith believes the key to last season was the support from the Dexter community, the parents and the administration.

“This group of girls was the loosest I’ve ever coached,” Smith said. “I told them if we are going to spend all this time with each other, let’s have fun and enjoy it.”

What the Dexter softball team has done in modern softball has only been done by Cobre (1979-1990), Piedra Vista (2006-2014), Silver (2011-2017) and Dexter four-peat (2015-2018) and counting.

What coach Smith has done is have the most wins in a season with 30 in 2016, and the most consecutive wins with 28 in 2016-17. Smith is the cornerstone of Dexter softball — unfortunately, they will have to go win one without her as she resigned a few weeks later.

What remains is the blueprint Smith put in place for winning state titles. One day the softball field could be named Smith Field. Because of Smith’s standard of excellence, the Lady Demons are the No. 4 sports moment of the year. Can you guess the remaining three?

Demons win fourth consecutive championship

From the May 12 edition of the Roswell Daily Record 

For Dexter softball coach Kim Smith, she felt like this year would be one of taking it day by day. After all, they had lost some key players from last year’s team. Smith forgot to tell seniors Kassandra Madrid, Dominique Silvas, Allyssa Madden, Marlou Blankvoort and Bryana Munoz. Dexter went, 27-3 overall, and 13-2 in 3A play.

“I knew we’d be decent,” Smith said. “But I didn’t think we’d be that good. We lost three key players from last year. From day one we set the tone for the culture with our goals from day one. Our players have bought into the program, that’s a big thing. It’s all my players. We started three freshmen and an eighth-grader, so we’re young.”

All season long, Smith has kept her head down and her mouth shut focusing on the process. To complete the process of the season, she would have to deal with being sick and fight through a few tournament games, not at full strength.

“This is the loosest group I have ever coached,” Smith said. “They would sing and do karaoke and not let the pressure get to them. We have to rebuild and work hard this summer and get ready for next year. I’m all in or nothing.”

To win their fourth title in a row, Dexter would have to beat rival Loving. Loving beat them in a doubleheader on Apr. 28. Just like last season, they would play for the title again with Dexter sweeping them in the championship games, 5-0, and 5-4.

It looked like the Falcons were ready to take it to the Lady Demons, when sophomore pitcher Lorisa Martinez hit a two-out pitch from Bryana Munoz to right field for a home run to give them a 1-0 lead.

The Lady Demons would bounce back and survive the fourth and fifth innings to win their fourth consecutive championship, 4-1, Friday at UNM Lobo Field.

“You can’t let it get to you,” Munoz said. “It was only the first inning, we still had seven more innings to play. As a pitcher, you have to let it go. When I got into trouble in the fourth and fifth inning, my mindset was to keep the ball down and trust my teammates to do their jobs and I would do mine.”

In the bottom of the first inning, Munoz led off for Dexter and doubled to left field. Munoz’s sister Aryana, hit the first pitch for a triple scoring Bryana to tie the game at 1-1. Next up for the Lady Demons was Danique Blankvoort and she hit a double to center field scoring Munoz to take a 2-1 lead.

Dominique Silvas hit the ball back at the pitcher who locked Blankvoort back to second base and threw Silvas out at first base. When she did that Blankvoort took off for third base and slid under the tag. With one out, Dexter sent up Marlou Blankvoort to the plate and she hit a single over the shortstops, head scoring her sister Dominique from third base giving Dexter a 3-1 lead.

“This means a lot to me,” Silvas said. “It’s been a really good four years and I’m glad this is the way it ended and I wouldn’t want it any other way, especially with my teammates and family encouraging me.”

Bryana Munoz pitched on cruise control until the fourth inning when the Falcons hit the ball and the Demons’ defense committed an error. There was a bunt and a fielding error putting runners on first and second base. Munoz got Alyssa Carrasco to strike out for one out, Tiana Rodriguez bunted the ball and was thrown out at first by Munoz for the second out. Faith McDonald lined out to Munoz to end the inning.

“I was never worried when Bryana (Munoz) got into trouble,” Smith said. “She’s a fighter and our team fought behind her, we’ve fought all year.”

In the top of the sixth inning, Dexter scored another run to give them a 4-1 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Loving would send Autumn McDonald to the plate and she would lace a double to center field at the base of the wall. Andrica Gomez bunted the ball and beat it, outputting runners at first and second with no out. Munoz walked Angelica Villegas to load the bases. Smith went out and talked to Munoz to settle her down. Munoz struck out the next three hitters to get out of the inning.

In the seventh, Munoz retired the side in order to give the Lady Demons their fourth Blue Trophy in a row.

“It means a lot that knowing that I can play with my sister (Bryana) doing all of this,” Arayana Munoz said.