St. Joseph third baseman has winning look
May 12, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.
Peyton Cuellar's scowl has become the talk of teammates.
So much so, the third baseman's glare became St. Joseph coach Rudy Diaz's rallying cry for getting down to business.
"One of the girls yelled to her from the dugout, 'Put a smile on her face,'" Diaz said. "Really, she put her game face on throughout the whole game. I didn't see her crack a smile the whole time.
"I turned around and told some of the girls, 'She's really into the ballgame. She's taking this seriously.'"
It was a point - and a story - the coach reiterated again to the Lady Flyers after practice Friday, the last official one before they take on Fort Bend Christian (25-12) at the TAPPS state softball tournament Monday morning.
The junior third baseman, who is in her second full season in the infield, has been on varsity and contributed each of the last two years.
She's all business on the field and has made a home for herself batting third, helping to drive in leadoff hitter Paige Terrell and No. 2 hitter Alyssa Adames - especially last Tuesday against Austin St. Dominic Savio, a team they had seen in district play and knew how to beat.
"In that game, we showed how pumped and ready we are to get there," the junior said. "We walked out on the field, and everyone knew we were ready to go. We put our games on and got to work."
Diaz noted how far Cuellar has come this season, especially in the field. She entered the season with big shoes to fill after Fabiola Chinea graduated two years ago.
Especially this year, her defense has markedly improved, he said.
"She's really matured this year," the coach said. "When Fabiola left us, I didn't think anyone could pick up the slack. She has no fear, and it makes her a gutsy ballplayer."
The Lady Flyers, though, will have their work cut out for them Monday morning.
There's a lot of history between these two teams; it just happens to all be in Fort Bend Christian's favor.
The Lady Eagles beat the Lady Flyers in 2009 and 2010 in the TAPPS state semifinal behind star pitcher Rachel Fox, who went on to Texas and later transferred to Texas A&M.
This time, it's her sister, Elizabeth, pitching for the Lady Eagles. But Diaz said the junior pitcher for the Lady Eagles is far different from her hard-throwing sister.
Her specialty? The change-up, something the Lady Flyers have struggled with at times this year.
St. Joseph, though, isn't entirely blind going into this thanks to an old pitching machine lobbing light foam softballs to batters all day Thursday and Friday.
"We have a machine that's really slow, so we can stay back on the ball and drive it and hit it," Cuellar said. "We know they're a good team, and we have to be fully prepared and be ready to play our game."
The team got off to rocky start. Short staffed early in the season, Diaz had to pitch one of his position players early in the season against Victoria East, a game it only lost 2-1.
The seminal moment for the Lady Flyers was the conclusion of the winter sports, Cuellar said, when the team finally filled out with the girls from basketball.
"Once we got the basketball girls back, we started clicking," she said. "We had the whole team together, positions were set, and we started getting use to people where they were."
As is usually the case, the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to have the best chance to win. It's a sentiment echoed by Diaz, but how is going to be the question.
Cuellar is sure it's going to be in the field.
"We're focusing on defense," she said. "Our bats are there, but defense is going to be key to winning the game.
"I think we've all worked harder on defense and becoming a team and having each other's back."
GAME NOTES• COACH TUCKER TO THE RESCUE: Part of the team's scouting report on Fort Bend Christian came from an unlikely source. Diaz said he enlisted former player Kate Tucker, who is attending classes at Texas A&M now, to scout the Lady Eagles in the last round. She was more than eager to help out, he said. "We called her up, and she took off to the field," Diaz said. "She kept texting throughout the game." It's led to an endearing nickname for the former Lady Flyers' shortstop. "We're calling her coach Tucker now," he said with a laugh.
• WHO WOULD BE NEXT? If the Lady Flyers win, they would face the winner of Fort Worth Christian and Midland Christian the following day at Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton. Game time is set for 10 a.m.