It’s been a struggle to earn victories for the Tolleson softball team so far.
The Lady Wolverines are just 3-10 as coach Mark Medrano said the team is struggling to find itself.
“We’ve got a mix of new kids, we’re young in some areas,” Medrano said. “We’ve got returners, but for the most part we’re really just changing lineups every day trying to find a good working combination.”
Offensively, the team is also having a difficult time. It’s something Medrano is not used to seeing so early in the season, he said.
“We’re fighting at the dish, but it’s not coming up our way right now,” Medrano said. “We generally hit better at the start. Yeah, we’ll take some losses, but we’ll score some runs. Right now we’re just not scoring any runs, we’re not getting anybody on. Jade Bravo is probably the only one getting on consistently, and after that it’s kind of hit or miss.”
Through 10 games, Bravo, a sophomore, was batting .600 (12 for 20). That is tops on the team.
“She has dedication and a hard-work ethic,” Medrano said. “She spends extra time in the cage, she works on anything and everything when it comes to ground balls and fly balls on the field. She puts in so much effort into what she does.”
Bravo plays center field.
“She’s the captain of the outfield,” Medrano said. “She’s doing everything she can to keep it going for her and the team.”
Tolleson’s pitchers are senior Araceli Candelaria and freshman Josette Valdez. The two of them are getting an equal amount of work, Medrano said.
“We’re trying to keep them working as best as possible right now,” Medrano said. “Josette threw against Buckeye [Tuesday] and threw a really good game. Araceli threw a really good game [Monday] against [Surprise] Willow [Canyon]. They’re throwing good, but it’s a mixture. Sometimes the defense doesn’t back them up, sometimes they miss their spots and they’re getting into trouble. Right now it’s just the consistency.”
Despite losing both of its early week games, Medrano thinks his girls are starting to turn a corner. The Lady Wolverines lost only 8-6 to Willow Canyon, scoring four runs late to cut the deficit.
“That was pretty good because Willow is a good team,” Medrano said. “They’ve got a lot of good kids on their team, a lot of solid athletes. We played really, really well. We were down 8-2, came back, made a run at it, got back to 8-6 and just fell short.
“It’s a very positive sign. I thought that was an indicator of what we were going to do, to turn the corner right there. Even [Tuesday] we showed signs of playing well. We made some really good plays and then in the fifth it just kind of all fell apart.”
Tolleson trailed Buckeye only 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, but after three errors loaded the bases, Buckeye’s Dustie Durham cleared the bases with a three-run triple.
“That brings in three runs and it was like, whoo, we were there, now we’ve got a big hole to climb out of,” Medrano said. “The wheels fell off the cart and we were down 8-0.”
Early season tournaments
Tolleson played both of its tournaments early in the year, finding most of its success during those games. They had a 7-3 win against Phoenix Trevor Browne in the Cesar Chavez Tournament, and then beat Phoenix Cortez, 17-0, and Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, 6-4, during the Apollo Cool Nites tourney.
“Bradshaw was a good one for us,” Medrano said. “We had a lot of people break out in that one, but it’s kind of like we stagnated a little bit. It’s early, but we stagnated a little bit and it’s like, ooh, we need to pick it up a little with our aggressiveness. We’re not as aggressive, we’re swinging out of the zone, we’re not disciplined at the plate. A lot of it comes from experience, and we haven’t had a lot of practice.”
During the tournaments, Tolleson was playing almost every day and didn’t get much practice time. They finally got a full week of practice in during spring break, March 10-14, but since then it’s been back to the grind.
“We’ve been playing three games a week now, one day of practice, then we play on Monday so you don’t get the luxury of practicing the day before the game,” Medrano said. “It’s a weird schedule for us. I looked at it on paper and said, ooh, we’ve got a really good shot, but the reality is we don’t have a lot of work time to make the adjustments we’ve been struggling with.”
Tolleson played Phoenix St. Mary’s on Thursday, the result was unavailable at press time, and next week gets into the bulk of section play when facing Glendale Copper Canyon on Monday, Phoenix Maryvale April 1 and Laveen Cesar Chavez Friday.
“If these last two games are any indicator of what we can do, we should be in the mix,” Medrano said. “ … We have an opportunity, who knows. We’ve got to be a little more focused. I think they’re seeing that now because I think the frustration is setting in. It’s time for us to get into section and go at it.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.