With a loss in the regional quarterfinals to rival Big Spring, the Andrews Mustang softball team brings back experience and talent on both offensive and defensive ends of the diamond to start 2017 after a 21-11-1 season.
In definition of experience, every single player is returning from a solid performance in 2016.
“We really grew as a team last year, and I feel that contributed to a lot to our success,” Andrews pitcher/second baseman Alexis Morales said. “There’s always going to be a challenge and we cam simply over-take it with hard work.”
Darren Pool, who is a 1985 Andrews graduate, enters his second term with Andrews as he garnered the all-district coach of the year last season.
With returning last season’s defensive district most valuable player, senior centerfielder Jeseraie Moore, who recorded a .750 fielding percentage in 2016, numerous talent will be on the field for the preseason ranked No. 6 Mustangs.
Notable defensive players returning for the Lady Mustangs include senior first baseman Jazlyn Lopez, senior catcher Lexi De La Cruz, who led the team in fielding percentage with a .982 and in put-outs with 203, sophomore left-fielder Marley Moralez, who led the team in batting average, stolen bases and in on-base percentage with .519, district newcomer and sophomore shortstop Mauri Balderas and junior pitcher Daisy Mireles, who accumulated a 12-3 record and recorded a 1.29 ERA on 20 appearances.
For the offensive side, second team second base junior Morales, who has verbally committed to play softball at UTEP, returns after a solid 2016 with a .358 batting average from last season, 21 RBIs an finished last season with a 8-7 record in the circle with a 1.93 ERA on 17 appearances.
“I have two more seasons, and my main focus is to make the best of them,” Morales said. “I definitely want to get my batting average up, maybe even get faster around the bases. As far as pitching, I want to pitch with a lead and set a positive tone for every game.”
Other returnees for Andrews include Reecie Wright, Aubree Hernandez, Siara Salinas, Angie Nanez, Mariah Infante, and Janie Leach.
With 2017 to come, the non-district slate will be key for the Mustangs prior to district play.
Andrews open up with Midland Christian on Valentine’s Day before heading to a tough Carrollton Tournament on Feb. 16-18.
“The tournaments in that area are more competetetive,” Morales said. “We’ve learned how to deal with adversity within the game. We face a variety of pitchers, so we learn how to adjust to different pitching types.”
Andrews then travel to the Tournament of Champions on Feb. 23-25 in Midland and then head north to rivals Seminole to take part in the Seminole Tournament on Mar. 2-4.
Sweetwater will travel to Andrews on Mar. 11 prior to hosting their district opener against Pecos on Mar. 17.
A day later of the district opener, Midland High, who entered in the Roy Report preseason rankings at 25 in Class 6A, come into town on Mar. 18.
The district slate include a trip to Monahans on Mar. 21 then hosting Fort Stockton on Mar. 24.
A two game road skid will be key for Andrews on Apr. 1 and Apr. 8, where road trips will be taken to Greenwood and Pecos.
The district schedule concludes with a home game against the Lady Lobos on Apr. 8, a lengthy road trip to Fort Stockton on Apr. 18 and the final home game and regular season game on Apr. 21 against Midland Greenwood.
As a heavy district favorite, Andrews wants to focus on the goals that the team has set, a state appearance. Andrews has not seen a state appearance since 2005 and hopes are high for Andrews to return to Austin.
“As a team, we definitely want to go far,” Morales said. “Our hard work and dedication is the key to this. Another thing we’ve been emphasizing is that we need to be a family. Working hard and being a family will get us far this season and our following seasons.”