Injury-riddled Patriots fall to fourth place in district

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

GALLUP, April 25, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Miyamura Lady Patriot pitcher Monique Ashley (5) winds up for a pitch on Saturday in Gallup.

W ith three games left in the regular season there is no margin of error for the Miyamura softball team. That is how first-year coach Santiago Montano sees it as the Lady Patriots dropped into fourth place in New Mexico's District 6-4A after losing to Los Lunas Valencia, 14-7, at Ford Canyon Park last Saturday afternoon.

"This was a setback," Montano said of Saturday's loss to Valencia. "We needed to win this game because it's going to be hard to get four teams to state in our district. We have to finish out strong and we probably have to win to go to state.

Anything short of that, "our season is done," he said.

With a healthy crowd looking on, the 13-8 Patriots started off on the wrong foot and trailed 7-0 before they got going late in the game.

"We're a much better team than what we've been playing lately," Montano said. "We're a little beat up but that is no excuse. We had some young kids that had to step up for us."

On Saturday the Patriots were without senior ace pitcher Jordan Lovato. Then they lost two starters during the game forcing Montano to reshuffle his lineup.

By the time the game was over he had six different players playing new positions, including eighth-grader Cassandra Esquibel, who took over the catching duties when senior starter Cortney Torrez went out with a hip injury.

"Our pitcher," Montano said of Monique Ashley, "is a junk ball thrower and she's very hard to catch but the young lady behind the plate did a good job."

Montano went on to say that the lineup change did cause some concerns as the Patriots showed some rust at the start of the game. Miyamura couldn't undo the self-inflicted damage as they trailed 4-0 after one inning of play.

"We fell behind with a couple of errors," Montano said. "I wish the girls could understand that no one will go through the season without making an error or striking out.

"When they make a mistake they just need to bounce back," he added.

The latest slew of injuries has taken its toll as the Patriots dropped three of their last five games, including two in district play.

"It's very frustrating to know that our record is going down faster and faster," Miyamura shortstop Aubrey Orr said. "We just have to keep battling."

Orr said the last few weeks have been hard to deal with but she said it's very plausible that the Patriots can close out the regular season undefeated since they have beaten some good teams this year.

One of those teams is the Los Lunas Tigers.

"Los Lunas is the No. 2 team in the state," Orr said. "And knowing that we can beat them we can absolutely beat anybody. When we play as a team we can dominate and it showed with the two wins over Los Lunas."

Still she said the injuries have affected everyone on the team but she's optimistic.

"We're not making it any easier on us because we're putting more pressure on us," she said. "We just need to play with more confidence."

Montano is hoping for the same thing, as the Patriots will close out the regular season at Los Lunas on Saturday before hosting a pair of games next week.

On April 30, Miyamura will entertain Belen before playing its home finale with Gallup.

"We need to pull out a big win against Gallup, which is going to be a challenge," Montano said. "We also need to go down to Los Lunas and try to get a win down there."

On Tuesday afternoon, the Bengals took over the driver's seat by beating Los Lunas by a 10-6 count.

"Those two teams play with a lot of confidence," Montano said of Gallup and Los Lunas. "We just need to get our swagger back but right now it's our injuries."

Montano said the next two weeks are going to big since he's had to alter their lineup on the defensive end.

"That's how we've been surviving," he said. "And now we don't have that defense but I believe in these girls. I know they can come back, we just need to get that momentum going again."

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