It’s a fair bet that most of the 14- to 18-year-old girls on Pueblo West High School’s softball squad have never heard of the classic rock band Boston.
But if there’s a theme song for the 2014 Cyclone softball team, it’s Boston’s seminal hit “More Than a Feeling,” because each player and coach associated with this team has “a feeling” that it will accomplish great things this season.
“There’s a different feeling from this team [than in past seasons],” Cyclone head coach Rick Montes said. “There’s a different vibe. This is a great group to be a round and emotionally, they just feel it.”
Montes’ “feeling” is something to take seriously. He was on coaching staffs for three Colorado state championship teams (Pueblo County in 1995, Pueblo West in 2004 and 2005), and he said that this year’s West squad has that same makeup.
The Colorado High School Activities Association agrees. CHSAA gave the Cyclones a preseason ranking of 10th and lists it as the favorite to win the South Central League title, pushing perennial powerhouse Pueblo East off of its perch.
“We’ll be right there,” Montes said of winning the SCL championship, “as long as we play our game.”
West’s game is solid all-around this year, focusing on power pitching, solid fielding and a fast, contact-hitting lineup.
On the offensive side of the ball, West returns four .400 hitters from a season ago, led by senior shortstop Shyanne DeVille. DeVille hit .423 and led the Cyclones with a .522 on-base-percentage. She also set fire to the basepaths, stealing 12 bases.
“Shyanne has been on our varsity team since she was a freshman and she leads by example,” Montes said. “Her work ethic is bar none one of the best and she is one of the better girls I’ve had the privelege to coach.”
DeVille is part of a rock-solid team up the middle, joined at second base by junior Haley Ruiz. Ruiz, like Deville, swiped 12 bases last season as the Cyclones leadoff hitter. A master of getting on base, she hit just .288 but ended up with an amazing .513 on-base-percentage
At catcher, the Cyclones have an embarassment of riches as Caitlin McCarthy, most recently coming off a state tennis championship last spring, returns alongside Megan Moss. Both hit .400 last year, with McCarthy leading with a more gawdy .465 average, but it was Moss that hit the cover off the ball, leading the team with a .667 slugging percentage.
Montes said both are interchangable at catcher, are solid defensively, and are equally solid at other positions, ensuring an everyday spot in the lineup for both. Moss is projected as the team’s third baseman while McCarthy plays outfield as well.
Taking up the centerfield role this year will be sophomore Jordan Sanchez. Sanchez impressed as a freshman, showing off her legs to score 12 runs despite only getting six total at bats. Her eight steals in that limited time and ability to patrol the outfield like a veteran makes her the favorite to pace the Cyclones in stolen bases this season.
Pitching will be Ashley Thomas, who returns for her junior campaign and ready to establish herself as the top pitcher in the SCL. Last year, she went 11-5 with a 3.56 ERA, striking out 81 batters in 108 innings.
“She has really matured in our summer program,” Montes said of Thomas. “We will be three deep at pitcher this year and she will by our number-one.”
Backing her up are Ruiz and freshman Jade Garbiso.
The corners and outfield are rounded out by platoon of Moss and Brittany Guerrero at third base, Shannon Sanchez at first base, and outfield consisting of Hannah Gridley, Sara Shoenbeck, Camryn Milyard, Garbiso, and the aforementioned Jordan Sanchez in centerfield.
Overall, the team is young but experienced, with many having started as freshman. Combined with solid senior leadership, the mixture of youth and experience is a lethal cocktail for SCL opponents.
And a reason for high hopes, DeVille said.
“We definitely have a ton of athletes on this field and the vibe is there,” DeVille said. “This is the best group that I’ve played with and we all have the same mindset and the same goal, which is to get that SCL championship and get that state title.”
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