Calhoun softball takes swing at successful season

March 7, 2011 at 12:02 a.m.
Updated March 6, 2011 at 9:07 p.m.

Calhoun catcher Tiffany Castillo prepares to hit the ball during their third inning of Tuesday evening's game against C.C. John Paul II at Calhoun High School. The Sandcrabs won 16-2 in three innings. ANGELI WRIGHT/AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM

Calhoun catcher Tiffany Castillo prepares to hit the ball during their third inning of Tuesday evening's game against C.C. John Paul II at Calhoun High School. The Sandcrabs won 16-2 in three innings. ANGELI WRIGHT/AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM

PORT LAVACA - Marissa Snyder knew she had a lot on her plate entering this season.

The junior had played first base last season, and had come to know the pressure of the position.

But little could have prepared her for her new role: as main pitcher for Calhoun.

"I just had a little bit of pressure on me, I just had to make my plays," said the junior for the Sandies. "Pitcher is the center of attention. Everyone is waiting on you to you to make good pitches. It's tough, you have to be prepared."

But as is so often the case for the Sandies, Snyder has been more than up to the challenge, boasting an ERA around 1.50 and helping the Sandies race out of the gate toward another big season.

But one question lingers: How do you top last season?

Calhoun finished 32-9 last season, and made it to the regional quarterfinals. They were one bad bounce on a short groundball from having the advantage in that series against New Braunfels Canyon.

This year, the pressure is on. They have risen to fourth in the Texas Girls Coaches Association rankings in Class 4A.

Sandies catcher Tiffany Castillo said the ranking is more of a reward for playing well.

"We just work hard, and I'm glad we're ranked," she said. "But we don't really worry about it. We just play our game."

Snyder said the ranking isn't a concern or a bother, but has the potential to be a drag.

"I think it weighs on those who made it the most," she said. "We've been there and they are looking for more out of us. It also weighs on the ones who came up because they outdo what the girls we lost did."

The playoffs would seem to be a given, even at this early a stage, but Sandies coach Daniel Castillo said the team is taking nothing for granted.

"We've got to make it first," he said. "We need to make sure we take it one team at a time. We're trying to get into the girls mind that we are a great team and we can always do better."

District play is a concern, Daniel Castillo said. There are five teams that he said he feels are playoff caliber, and expects the race for the four spots from District 30-4A to be close.

"We've got to get in, and hopefully things work out right. We're not taking anything for granted," he said.

One thing is for sure: Offense isn't a problem this season.

The Sandies belted 19 home runs last season and batted over .350 as a team. This season, they already have 10 home runs, paced by junior catcher Tiffany Castillo's six, and are batting as a team over .500.

"Right now, we're hitting a lot," Tiffany Castillo said. "Our fielding is good, and everyone is just doing good."

Others have had to step up this season to fill spots vacated by graduating seniors. Kati May, who didn't play in the field last year, has taken over center field for Naomi Trevino. And Snyder has replaced Cecilia Castillo in the circle, despite not pitching little over the last two seasons.

"Marissa didn't get a lot of pitching time last year, other than during the summer," Daniel Castillo said. "It worked out well for her since its her first season pitching for us."

That doesn't mean she is inexperienced. Snyder has been pitching for about nine years, she said.

Snyder is a different type of pitcher. She doesn't have the speed her predecessor has, but she makes up for it with a nasty curveball that breaks away from right handed hitters.

"So far, my curve-drop has been getting everyone out," she said. "So that's the one I've been working on the most. ... I think we can make it this year and top last year. It just takes everyone working together."

And with the rule changes to move the circle back three feet, the junior's pitches only have more room to break.

"She's moving the ball great," Daniel Castillo said. "The further back you are, it helps with that."

Many of the Sandies players are practicing and playing year round, and the development shows.

Daniel Castillo said his wife coaches the summer league team in Port Lavaca, and coaches many of the girls during the offseason.

And the improvement continues to shine through as young players, like sophomores Brittany Dworaczyk and shortstop Darian Sanchez, continue to make major strides at the plate.

"They're playing softball all year long," he said. "So they're always hitting, always coming out here. And you can tell. These girls are coming out here and working out during the summer and during the winter before we start our season."

What it comes down to, Daniel Castillo said, is hard work.

"We work hard in practice, and the girls believe," he said. "And that's the most important thing. the work ethic and them wanting to do better."



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