Calhoun freshman helps lead team in playoffs

By BY john Hornberg -
May 20, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

Calhoun shortstop Darien Sanchez is  coming up big for the Sandies. She's hitting .362 with three home runs this season.

Calhoun shortstop Darien Sanchez is coming up big for the Sandies. She's hitting .362 with three home runs this season.

PORT LAVACA - When Darian Sanchez stepped up to the plate in the eighth inning, an already close game had boiled over into extra innings, and the pendulum had swung Corpus Christi Tuloso-Midway's direction. The Cherokees had mustered a run in the top of the seventh to force extra innings, and it was shaping up to be a long game.

Not if Sanchez had anything to say about it.

"I wasn't trying to do too much, I just knew that I had to get on base so that the other people behind me could bring me in," she said. "But I just had a smooth swing and I hit it over."

The ball she hit sailed into the night and over the left-center field fence at Tuloso-Midway, helping the Sandies take down the Cherokees, one of the top ranked teams in Class 4A at the time, in a critical first game that gave Calhoun all the momentum and home field advantage in their area round playoff series.

Sanchez, one of the Sandies' two freshmen starters along with third baseman Brittany Dworaczyk, have been key for Calhoun all season and as they prepare for Friday's series opener against defending Class 4A champion New Braunfels Canyon.

The two figure to play a key role in the upcoming series as well. Sanchez is a threat on both sides of the ball, a slick fielding shortstop who is second on the team with three home runs.

The series, for the first time this playoff season, will be at a neutral site - in this case, Weimar.

"Our practices have been really hard, we're ready to play against New Braunfels," Sanchez said. "I don't think it should be a problem, anywhere we play should be good.

"I've heard they are a really good hitting team, so our defense has to be sharp."

It's not all that uncommon for younger players to earn starting spots, said Sandies coach Daniel Castillo. They bring a youthful exuberance to the lineup and the field.

It also gives the team the advantage of having players with veteran experience down the line, with four years of varsity play under their belts. But their contributions also affect the upperclassmen on the team as well, and they always know who or what is waiting in the wing.

"At least for the last few years, we've had two or three girls as far as freshmen go," he said. "I like to pick the better girls, and if those girls are freshmen, I figure by district time, if they are going to be good they are going to be all right. If they are good enough to play, and you use them, it puts pressure on the seniors, because in order to play, they got to prove that they are better than the freshman group."

For Sanchez, it isn't just her first year with the Sandies, it's her first season as a shortstop. Before this season, she had played in the outfield. But she viewed the move into the infield as a new challenge.

"I try really hard to prove that I can really play this position," she said. "I just try to stop all the balls that come to me, get it to first base and try to help out my pitcher as much as I can."

Both Dworaczyk and Sanchez had to work to earn their spots on the roster. And it's by no shortage of hard work, Dworaczyk said. Both players have been playing for several years in summer and select leagues before this season.

"This is what I've been practicing for all season and in the summer, to earn this spot as a freshman," said Dworaczyk, who Castillo said came through with several key hits during the district season.

But for both players, it was a trial to earn their spot on the roster. Castillo said that both girls made the varsity roster because the intention was for them to play. If that wasn't the case, they would have been on the junior varsity team.

For Sanchez, tryouts were a chance for her to prove she belonged.

"I tried really hard in tryouts, gave it everything I got to prove to the coach that, even though I'm a freshman, I have the mentality to play on a varsity team," she said.

Dworaczyk has turned in a good season by any standards. She said she hit her first home run - a shot over the fence, not an inside-the-park hit - at the Corpus Christi tournament earlier this season.

"It was amazing," she said. "I hadn't hit one over the fence before in a game."



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