Clovis sophomore Valarie Morris works on her batting forum by hitting a ball from a tee during Wednesday’s practice a the Clovis softball complex. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Dave Wagner
If there’s a year where the Clovis High Lady Wildcats could unseat Carlsbad in District 4-5A softball, this may be it.
The Cavegirls, perennial Class 5A state contenders, are off to a 6-6 start relying on a relatively young lineup.
On the other hand, four of the losses were to second-ranked Alamogordo — and one of the wins was a 7-0 verdict over Clovis in a tournament at Las Cruces.
In the program’s six-year history, the Lady Cats (9-5) have never beaten Carlsbad.
“Clovis made a couple of mistakes against us and let us get some runs,” said third-year Cavegirls coach Shaun Standard, who team hosts the Lady Cats in a three-game, district-opening series this weekend. “We’re still in a ‘working-on-us’ mode. We can’t worry about anybody else right now.
“We’ve gotten good pitching, but we just haven’t hit the ball the way I would have liked.”
Clovis coach Larry Trower, a 1978 Carlsbad grad who coached the Cavegirls for three years, knows this weekend’s series is huge.
“Any time you have to go down there, it’s tough,” he said. “But I think if we’re focused and play the way we’re capable of, some good things can happen.”
Center fielder Carolyn Smith and catcher Tiana Rodriguez, both juniors, lead the Cavegirls’ attack with averages of .360 or better. Carlsbad will throw two young pitchers this weekend in sophomore Veronica Castillo and freshman Megan Naverrete.
Coaches think the district race could be relatively wide open this season, at least after Carlsbad.
Eldorado (4-6-1) is trying to bounce back after an off year. Manzano is hoping to retain the form which got it to the playoffs in 2003, while Hobbs is steadily improving.
“I think (Carlsbad is) the team to chase in the district,” Trower said. “The teams that hit the ball and play defense consistently will be the teams that come out (of the district).”
Eldorado coach Michelle Greenwood said her team is also young. The Lady Eagles rely heavily on senior pitcher-first baseman Tiffany McCrory, senior shortstop-pitcher Sondi Giles and junior catcher Jessi Mons.
Mons leads the team in several offensive categories.
Eldorado, which opens district play with a series at Hobbs this weekend, was 10-16 last season after finishing fourth at the state tournament in 2002.
“I really think it’s (up for) grabs this year,” Greenwood said of the district. “I don’t think there’s an extremely dominant team (in 5A) except for Alamogordo. I think in our district, we’re all comparable.”
Trower and Standard, who coached Carlsbad to state titles in 2001 and 2002, respectively, believe the rest of the district is catching up to the Cavegirls, who started softball in the late 1970s when Trower was still in high school.
“We realize every year the gap is closing,” Standard said. “We just try to keep on getting better ourselves.”
Senior catcher Alicia Odom and junior third baseman Annie Tweedy provide some pop on offense for the Lady Cats, while Tweedy has been a steady No. 2 pitcher for Clovis behind senior Paige Adare.
“We’re hitting the ball a lot better (lately),” Trower said. “You’ve got to generate some offense, especially when you play the tougher teams.”