Carlsbad rules 4-5A until it loses

Clovis sophomore Sonia Chavez looks to second as she fields a ground ball during practice Wednesday at the Lady Wildcat Softball Complex. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

Carlsbad coach Shaun Standard can’t remember the last time the Cavegirls failed to win the district championship. He thinks the streak is at least eight years.

That’s why is comes as no surprise when District 4-5A coaches picked Carlsbad as the favorite again this spring.

“Carlsbad is always the favorite,” first-year Clovis coach Brandi Thomas said. “They’ve been dominant in the state, period. They strive and live off of that tradition.”

The Lady Wildcats (10-4) hosts Carlsbad in a three-game series starting with a Friday doubleheader.

“The district championship will continue to go through Carlsbad until somebody beats us,” said Standard, in his fourth season at the school.

Carlsbad (8-3) is relying more on hitting than pitching than in past years, Standard said.

“We’re pretty solid one through nine (in the batting order),” he said, adding his team has averaged 10 runs a game this season. “They’re aren’t any easy outs out there.”

Four-year lettermen Tiana Rodriguez, a catcher who’s hitting .480, leadoff center fielder Carolyn Smith and designated hitter Amanda Laird lead Carlsbad, which has won 15 state titles since 1976.

The Cavegirls won’t be the only district champions in 4-5A this year. As part of a realignment, Sandia (8-4) moves over from 1-5A.

Sophomore Naddie Machac has stepped in for star pitcher Kailey Yarmer, who moved to Arizona.

“She’s doing a fantastic job,” Sandia coach Tracy VunKannon said.

However, VunKannon said her team is inexperienced and not used to pressure situations.

Catcher Erin Brandow, center fielder Kylie Matsko and shortstop Jessica Bailey, all juniors, have been inconsistent at plate, but VunKannon expects them to return soon to last year’s form.

Clovis is only two victories away from last year’s win total.

Seniors Laura Wood and Annie Tweedy have led the team in the infield and at the plate while senior pitcher Julie Surna has stepped up in her first season on varsity. Thomas said the Lady Wildcats have been consistent in every facet of the game and can challenge for the district title if they keep their emotions in check.

“You want them to have the excitement of the game, you just want them to control it,” Thomas said.

Thomas has seen a dramatic attitude improvement in Hobbs under new coach Dean Crossland.

“They actually care about being there,” she said of the 8-6 Eagles, who went 2-10 in district last year.

Under veteran coach Gene Victor, who is in his 21st year at Cibola, the Cougars have stumbled out to a 3-8 start.

However, two of those losses were to state runner-up West Mesa, and another three were by two runs or less.

First baseman and outfielder Kelly Waites, center fielder Callan Martinez and second baseman Naomi Martinez are seniors back for the Cougars.