Lady Horsemen break out big guns
Two days a week since softball practice began in February, the St. Michael’s Lady Horsemen have hit the weights.
The results have been uplifting.
The Lady Horsemen offense is enjoying a resurgence this season, as they have hit double figures in runs in their first three games. That’s one fewer time than they did it during the 2018 season.
After an 11-8 win over Pojoaque Valley in the opening round of the Roseanne Noedel Tournament on Thursday afternoon at Christian Brothers Athletic Complex, St. Michael’s (2-1) is one win away from matching last year’s total.
The Lady Horsemen will face Albuquerque Academy in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday.
The offensive explosion by St. Michael’s is what first-year head coach Joe Alvarez had in mind when he took over the position in the fall after Billy Perdue resigned. So don’t mind the Lady Horsemen if they flex their newfound muscles a little bit.
“You can see how they see it’s paying off,” Alvarez said. “They see the difference from the hard work they’ve put in. They see the results.”
That was especially apparent in the sixth inning. Pojoaque Valley spent most of the game chipping away at a 4-0 first-inning deficit, and finally did it with a two-run top of the sixth to take an 8-7 lead. That’s when St. Michael’s plugged in the power. Starting pitcher Lynnsey Glidewell opened the bottom of the frame with a triple that skipped to the right-center field fence, then Athena Archuleta followed with a single to left field to tie the score at 8-all. Rhiannon Salazar blooped a single to left field and advanced to second when the throw went the third base to unsuccessfully retire Archuleta.
That set the stage for Michelle Salazar, who then hit a two-run double to deep left-center field to break the tie.
Michelle Salazar said the team changed its approach against Elkettes starting pitcher Becca Chavez to take advantage of the strikes she threw early in the pitching count.
“We noticed that a lot of her first pitches were right down the middle or they were close enough that we should going be after them,” Michelle Salazar said.
It’s that aggressive approach that had St. Michael’s hitting .403 as a team heading into the tournament. Now, if the defense can come along as well as the bats, that could make the Lady Horsemen a dangerous team come District 2-3A play. As it was, St. Michael’s committed eight errors on the day, with five coming in the second inning, and the Elkettes feasted on that for three runs to get within 4-3.
When Rhiannon Salazar overran Jessica Roybal’s single to the left field in the fifth that allowed a pair of runs to score, it kick-started a three-run fifth that helped the Elkettes tie the score at 6-all.
“We clawed our way in there,” first-year Pojoaque head coach Chris Ortiz said. “We need to minimize our errors, because that’s what killed us the most.”
The St. Michael’s defense stood firm in the top of the seventh, as the Elkettes only managed a lead-off walk before Glidewell retired the last three batters on a pair of groundouts and a fly ball in which Rhiannon Salazar made a diving catch for the win. Alvarez feels that once that aspect of the game improves, the Lady Horsemen could be a force.
“We’re just lacking in game experience,” Alvarez said. “Our center fielder [eighth-grader Lauryn Pecos] just got out of basketball and is young and very inexperienced. So, that will just come with time.”
In other first-round games:
West Las Vegas 11, Capital 6
The Lady Jaguars looked like they were in control, leading 5-1 with two outs in the top of the fifth, when the roof caved in as the Lady Dons scored seven runs to take an 8-5 lead that held up the rest of the way. West Las Vegas plays Bernalillo in a semifinal at 1:40 p.m. Friday.
Capital committed six errors during the rally, as 11 Lady Dons stepped up to the plate in the inning. West Las Vegas tacked on a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh, helped by a Capital error in each frame. Angel Branchal went 3-for-4 with three doubles and a run scored to lead the Lady Dons (7-0). Melina Del Rio was 3-for-4 with a triple and a run scored to pace the Lady Jaguars (2-3).
Bernalillo 6, Raton 1
The defending tournament champion Lady Spartans (4-1) scored four runs in the first inning to essentially settled this rematch of last year’s championship game. Shauncey Masawiestewa allowed just one run on four hits while striking out 11 Lady Tigers, who were playing their season opener.
Abq. Academy 5, Española Valley 3 (8 innings)
It took extra innings, but Lady Chargers senior Alix Hamon settled the affair with a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to erase a 3-2 Lady Sundevils lead.
Prior to that, all of the scoring occurred in the first two innings, as Española (3-2) opened the score with — what else? — a two-run homer by Haley Ortega in the top of the first. Academy (4-3) scored a run in the first and tied the score at 2-all on Ashleyu Purcella’s RBI single.