After starting the season with losses in two of his team’s first three games, new Cougars head coach Todd Pyne was looking for improvement from the young squad when heading into the Lady Rider Southwest Classic tournament.
Pyne witnessed that and more when Kellis (4-3) defeated Glendale Independence 14-0.
During a three-game winning streak, Kellis outscored its opponents 50-2.
“We have really started communicating well and hitting the ball well,” Pyne said after the victory over Independence.
“Coming into this season, I was hoping for a .500 team. Now I think we can play with anyone.”
Cougars starting pitcher Sydney Roe dominated, allowing only two hits while striking out 10 in the five-inning game.
“I actually thought she was a little off today,” Pyne said. “He was throwing hard and hitting her spots, but she had some misses and actually was a little more dominant in a loss earlier this season.”
Roe struck out 10 of the 16 batters she faced, including five in a row at one point during the game. She also retired the final 11 Patriots hitters.
“She is very strong on the mound and, even though she had a few hiccups tonight, she was throwing well,” Pyne said. “We are young, and after knowing what they have done the past few seasons, I didn’t want to set my expectations, but these girls are changing that thought.”
Over the previous three seasons, the Cougars have struggled to a 14-63-1 record. Pyne said communication was a key factor.
“That has changed a lot, and the girls really didn’t have a choice after one of our best players, (junior Ashley) Sandoval, tore her MCL and meniscus. But they have really stepped up and have been very vocal on the field and during practices.”
Against Independence (3-2), the Cougars started by quickly pushing across five runs in the bottom of the first. With one out, Mary Pearce tripled to right and was brought home on a bunt single by Sara O’Connor. O’Connor was then driven in on a double by Celina Morales, and Morales was brought home on a single by Desarae Leyva.
Jisselle Navejas then singled in Leyva and, after a fly out, Navejas was brought across on a double by Suzie Normandin. The Cougars led 5-0 after the first inning.
“After (Independence) opened the game with a single, I just wanted to get through the first inning, and the offense really opened up when we got to bat,” Pyne said. “The girls made adjustments at the plate and our offense got rolling.”
Roe then took over for the Cougars, striking out six of the next ten Patriots batters to dominate on the mound.
“It was a workman-like performance for Roe,” Pyne said. “She was moving the ball in and out and was throwing hard but, believe it or not, struggled with hitting her spots at times.”
Eight of the nine batters for the Cougars had at least one hit and one RBI in the game, led by Celina Morales, who had three hits, two doubles and a home run while driving in three runs. Leah Calderon, Roe, Pearce, O’Connor, Leyva and Suzie Normandin each had two hits in the game.
As the Cougars continue to prepare for Northwest Section play, Pyne said he is aiming to solidify his defense before it begins March 26.
“We have a tournament coming up and basically I want to solidify our defense, because we have girls playing in different positions than they planned on when the season started,” Pyne said. “I am comfortable with our pitching. We may not throw no-hitters, but if we can get our defense set, I believe we can hang with anyone.”