Lady Sundevils Can’t Hold off Chargers, Take Fourth at St. Mike’s Tourney

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Española catcher Alexia Garcia gets ready to pounce on a bunt by an Albuquerque Academy batter that turned out to be a foul ball. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Lady Sundevils Can’t Hold off Chargers, Take Fourth at St. Mike’s Tourney

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School softball team led going into the sixth inning against Albuquerque Academy March 17 in the third-place game of the Lady Horsemen Invitational tournament in Santa Fe. Leading 7-5, the Lady Sundevils couldn’t hold onto the lead and the Lady Chargers scored four runs to take a 9-7 lead. Española couldn’t come up with the runs they needed in the sixth and seventh innings and lost 9-7 to finish fourth in the tournament.

Española spotted the Chargers a 4-0 lead, giving up four runs in the top of the first inning thanks to three hits and two errors by the Sundevils. Española came back with three runs in the bottom of the first inning as the Chargers returned the favor with a couple of errors of their own.

Española took the lead 5-4 with a two-out rally in the bottom of the second inning. With two outs, Alexia Garcia doubled, Haley Ortega drew a walk and Elena Gonzales tripled to drive in two runs. The Sundevils added two more runs in the bottom of the third inning. A single by pitcher Autumn Vigil drove in Tayler Suazo and Sydnee Pollard to give the Sundevils a 7-4 lead.

Española shortstop Tayler Suazo gets ready to field a ground ball and Heather Vigil runs to cover second base against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Vigil, who has taken over as the Sundevils’ top varsity pitcher after spending most of last season pitching for the junior varsity, shut down the Chargers in the second, third and fourth innings. In the fifth inning, Chargers’ pitcher Alix Hamon doubled and scored on a single by Angelina Grine. The Chargers had figured Vigil out and they exploded at the plate in the sixth inning, stroking six hits that were mostly solid line drives. The Chargers scored four runs. Gonzales came on in relief and managed to stop the bleeding, but Academy had taken a 9-7 lead.

Autumn Vigil was Española’s starting pitcher against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Sundevils couldn’t score again and lost, finishing fourth in the tournament Garcia was an all-tournament selection for Española.

“We killed ourselves in that first inning,” Española Coach Robbie Garcia said. “We stopped hitting.”

The Sundevils had defeated local rival Pojoaque Valley High School 12-6 March 15 in the opening round of the tournament. Española ran into a strong pitcher in the semifinals. Bernalillo’s Shauncey Masawiestewa tossed a one-hitter at the Sundevils. The game ended after five innings under the 10-run mercy rule as Bernalillo took an 11-0 victory.

The Sundevils are a mix of experienced varsity players and inexperienced junior varsity players this season. After opening the season at home and defeating Santa Fe High School 6-3, the Sundevils have been road warriors. Española is 1-5 since their opening-game victory. The war on the road will continue as the Sundevils will compete against a strong field in the Kristen Griego tournament in Rio Rancho Thursday (3/22) against Cleveland High School. Española will face Academy again in their District 2-5A opener March 28 in Albuquerque.

“They (Academy) got us once,” Coach Garcia said. “We need to get them in districts. We’ve got a lot of work to get done. We need to learn from every game. Hopefully, we’ll beefin’ them up for districts.”