Young Lady Bengals look to bright future

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

GALLUP, March 29, 2012

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W ith a good pitching staff and the defense to back it up, it's tough not to be optimistic.

That is what first-year coach Gabrielle Boucher is walking into as Gallup returns all but four players from last year's team that qualified for state. She served as the assistant coach the previous two years before she named head coach this year.

"We have a big junior class that has a ton of experience, but we also have a lot of freshmen playing varsity," Boucher said. "So we are kind of split between a young team and a veteran team."

And although they are well positioned to challenge for the District 6-4A title this year, Boucher remains wary with the five freshmen on the team.

"They're playing key positions," she said. "We're still trying to teach them and the older players are doing a good job of taking on that role to teach me."

Still, the first-year coach will not have any problems with continuity in terms of the pitching staff and catcher's position. The Bengals return junior Crystal Pablo, a three-year veteran behind the plate, as well as sisters Destinee and Kiana Spencer.

The two sisters share the pitching duties and so far they have led Gallup to a 10-5 start.

"That's going to be one of our strengths," Boucher said of the two important positions.

"They have definitely matured and have gotten better since I've seen them since their freshmen year but I think our strong sticks is going to be make a difference this year," she said. "We're very capable of hitting the ball and I think that allows us to give up a few runs here and there."

Last weekend the Bengals competed in the Kristen Griego Memorial Tournament and placed fifth.

Gallup won the opener, 7-0, against Churchill High of Eugene, Ore., before they were sent into the consolation bracket when Las Cruces shut them out with a 11-0 victory.

"I thought we had a very solid first game," Boucher said. "But in our next one we struggled."

Nevertheless, the Bengals bounced back with two solid wins last Saturday by upending St. Pius, 11-6, before capping the tournament with huge 5-4 win over Farmington in a game that went 10 innings.

Against Farmington, Kiana Spencer pitched the whole game and gave up nine hits while striking out 19 batters.

"I was hitting my corners inside and out," the freshman ace said.

Offensively, the Bengals pounded out 12 hits with Pablo leading the way with three singles while Sydney Daw was credited with two RBI's on 2-of-5 hitting.

"That game opened up our eyes," Pablo said. "Even though we have a young team it gave us a lot of confidence. Before this year I don't think we could have pulled out a game like that because it was real tight."

"The last time we played them they beat us by a lot," Destinee Spencer added. "This time we did really good and I am really proud of my team."

Not only did the one-run victory give them a boost in confidence, it should help their case when the state selection committee seeds the Class 4A bracket.

"We've actually played a pretty tough schedule," Boucher said. "We opened the season with Farmington and even though we lost that game I think it taught us a lot about our team. Every since then we've been on a run and we've beaten some really good teams."

Two of those teams are members of the Class 5A field as Gallup beat Albuquerque High by a 6-5 count before sweeping Manzano with 3-2 and 5-4 victories.

"So far we've won the games we're suppose to win," Boucher said. "With the games that we won we should be OK with the seeding. We just have to get ready for district."

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