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Lady Horsemen making strides despite loss

April 3, 2019

There is an unwritten rule with Cia Alvarez in moments like the fourth inning of Tuesday’s softball game at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex.

Basically it goes like this: When she’s angry, don’t touch.

The starting shortstop for the St. Michael’s softball team was not feeling it when the Lady Horsemen had Tuesday’s game slip away from them with a disastrous five-error, six-run frame that helped West Las Vegas make off with a 17-9 victory in the District 2-3A opener for teams. Three of those runs came in on one of the only true hits of the inning, a bases-loaded line drive a few feet to Alvarez’s left that slammed off her outstretched glove and trickled into shallow left that somehow allowed every runner to score even though the ball didn’t go more than a dozen or so feet beyond the infield dirt.

The defense immediately had a meeting in the pitcher’s circle, an impromptu visit to regroup during a frustrating inning where nothing seemed to go their way. The last to join the group was Alvarez and, well, she wasn’t in the mood for high-fives.

“It was pretty bad,” she said. “I know I get down on myself and people feed off that. I’ve been trying to change that a lot this inning and this is the first game that I’ve actually done that, and that’s the biggest mistake that I had this game but those errors, we have to feed off them but in a positive way.”

In truth, Alvarez had nothing to apologize for. She finished 4-for-5 with three runs scored and RBI while Rhiannon Salazar and Michelle Salazar both went 3-for-4 as St. Michael’s had 18 hits and a trio of three-run innings.

Alvarez’s day included a triple that ended as a Little League home run. After beating the throw to third on a ball hit to the fence, she came home when the throw got away from the third baseman and got all the way to the backstop.

Despite the St. Michael’s errors — there were eight in total — the Lady Horsemen are clearly making strides as a team. They’re vastly improved over their recent past that produced a pair of forgettable seasons in 2017 and 2018. The team won just three games last year and has 10 the last two seasons. At 4-5 overall and 0-1 in district, they already have their sights set on a spot in the state playoffs.

“We get along a lot better this year, for sure,” Rhiannon Salazar said. “We actually get along, you know?”

As good as the chemistry is off the field, the product on the diamond is dramatically improved. The team is hitting the ball like a playoff-caliber squad, averaging 12 runs a game. What needs to improve is the defense.

“It’s tough sometimes, but it’s definitely something we’re working on,” said head coach Joe Alvarez, Cia’s father. “There are things to fix but when you have innings like [the fourth] it seems like one mistake leads to another and another. It feels like it keeps going and going.”

As in a poorly fielded ball leading to a bad throw, or a bobbled throw leading to a runner beating a tag, or an easy fly ball popping out of a glove.

All those things happened Tuesday, helping West Las Vegas (9-3, 1-0) turn the basepaths into a traveling circus of baserunners. The Lady Dons had only 13 hits but scored at least one run in six of their seven innings.

It was a 6-6 tie after two frames when things started to get crazy. The Lady Dons scored once in the third to take the lead, then batted for more than 20 minutes in the top of the fourth to go up 13-6.

St. Michael’s never recovered, although Cia Alvarez did manage to regain her composure. A fiery character who plays with passion no matter what the sport, she carries her emotions on her sleeve. She was like that as the point guard on the school’s basketball team and is doing it again on the diamond.

“I’m probably like that even more out here,” she said. “Probably way more.”

Pitcher Lynnsey Glidewell went the distance for the Lady Horsemen. She gave up all 17 runs on seven walks, but only 11 of those runs were earned. The defense was also charged with eight passed balls.

“We’ve made a lot of progress and we still have a lot to do, but you only get better by showing up and working hard in practice and out here every day,” Joe Alvarez said. “That’s one of the things I like about these players. They show up willing to learn and work, and that’s all you can as for sometimes.”

As busy as the team has been, it’s about to get crazier than ever. The Lady Horsemen have 17 games between Thursday’s trip to Bernalillo and the regular season finale at the end of the month. It will provide plenty of opportunities for Cia Alvarez to work on her game and flash the intensity that makes her such an entertaining player to watch.

Just don’t try to give her a high-five or a pat on the back. She hates that.