Lady Mustangs showing improvement in softball
Last updated 2/21/2023 at 11:50am
Last year was a rebuilding year for the West Orange Stark Lady Mustangs in softball. The construction of a competitive Lady Mustangs softball program is a work in progress.
In his second year as the head coach for softball with the Lady Mustangs is Matt Robertson. "Last year we got on a good run during tournament season. I think we ended up winning seven out of ten at one stretch. Then we got into district, and obviously our district is difficult. We played hard, and the kids really played well," Robertson evaluated.
By the end of the district schedule and still seeking its first district win of the year West Orange Stark was very competitive battling Orangefield and Silsbee into extra innings before losing both games. Robertson elaborated, "We went nine innings against Orangefield, and then we went eight against Silsbee. Overall, I thought the Lady Mustangs played well all year."
There is some experience returning for West Orange Stark with three seniors who saw playing time last year. A leader for the Lady Mustangs will be Nataleigh Sims as their starting pitcher. Robertson is hopeful he can have other Lady Mustangs to throw in the circle and allow him to use Sims at shortstop in some games.
T'Era Garrett played primarily at catcher for the Lady Mustangs in her junior year. As a senior Garrett has been playing at second base, but can play anywhere the coach puts her. T'Era is most dangerous for opposing teams at the plate because she can hit the long ball as she did multiple times last year.
The term utility is aptly used to describe the contributions made by Peyton Zimmerman for the Lady Mustangs. "Peyton will probably be playing a little bit of everywhere. Peyton will play second, she'll play left, and she'll play right," Robertson indicated.
Centerfield for West Orange Stark will be occupied by junior Erika Jordan who played last year as well. Like so many of the Lady Mustangs Jordan can be used in multiple positions on the field. Robertson explained, "The Lady Mustangs adapt very well and I can play them pretty much anywhere I need to play them and they're ready to go. They're gung ho."
Several new Lady Mustangs will contribute this season in softball. One of those that Coach Robertson has high praise for is junior D'ayrrah Womack who can play just about anywhere on the diamond. "I have high expectations for her. She's going to be in the middle of our lineup," Robertson commented.
Freshman Kensley Waller will be a backup pitcher to Sims and will also play middle infield for the Lady Mustangs. At third base will be sophomore Latessa Turner. Not surprisingly Turner can also play shortstop and pitch. Robertson added, "I've got a few more options in pitching this year, and that way I can play Nataleigh at shortstop because she's a really good shortstop."
First base seemed to be locked up by sophomore Imani Jenkins with her height to give infielders for the Lady Mustangs a good target to throw to when they field ground balls. Jenkins is fitting in nicely on the varsity after spending last year on the junior varsity.
Soliel Smith will be a regular in the outfield for West Orange Stark. Crystal Santibanez will contribute to the Lady Mustangs according to Robertson.
Edid Balderas is not a new face to the Lady Mustangs but is playing her first season in softball. Balderas has served as the team's equipment manager the last two years for Coach Robertson. He encouraged Edid to come out for the team which she has as a senior and according to the coach swings a pretty good bat for someone with so limited time doing it.
Two seniors are expected to be the big bats for West Orange Stark this season. Nataleigh Sims should be the leadoff hitter for the Lady Mustangs with T'Era Garrett in the middle of the lineup for them. "I expect us to hit. I don't think that's really our big issue. I think we're pretty confident at the plate. In the scrimmages so far we've had a good approach to hitting. We've drawn a lot of walks, we haven't swung at a lot of bad pitches. Overall, I think our approach as a team has been really good in our scrimmages. I think hitting is going to be our strong suit," Robertson predicted.
Last year Sims was the Lady Mustangs' pitcher, period. Robertson said Nataleigh is a grinder. "She just works. She doesn't want to come out of the game, she wants the ball. That makes it easy for me. When we need her I toss her the ball and she goes out there."
Robertson will have some options in the circle this season with Kensley Waller and Latessa Turner. "Having Tessa and Kensley will be a big help. Kensley started two scrimmages for us and thrown pretty well. She's a little nervous but that's normal as a freshman. The more games she gets the better she's going to be. Tessa just throws the ball hard and once we get her dialed in it's going to be a good little rotation," Robertson analyzed.
The difference for the Lady Mustangs in recent years compared to the other teams in their district has been the quality of pitching which may be getting closer now. Robertson plans to use Waller and Turner in limited appearances to keep opposing hitters especially in the district unaware of what the two young Lady Mustangs throw in the circle.
District 19-4A is full of quality teams led by Bridge City and Little Cypress Mauriceville which means West Orange Stark has its work cut out for it to make the playoffs this season. "Trading Orangefield for Jasper is not a great trade for our district. Our district's really good. Vidor's good, Lumberton's good, it's a tough district. I always like our chances, I always have high expectations," Robertson concluded.
West Orange Stark took part in the Southeast Texas Kick-off Classic played at Orangefield and Little Cypress Mauriceville High Schools on February 16-18. The Lady Mustangs competed well against four teams that made the playoffs last season.
Freshman Kensley Waller saw most of the action in the circle pitching in five games for West Orange Stark. Kensley's control was very good with just seven total walks issued in those games.
Nataleigh Sims pitched the other game for the Lady Mustangs and played shortstop when Waller pitched. Sims was a standout in the field as was Erika Jordan both making sensational catches to rob opposing batters of hits.
Several Lady Mustangs hit the ball well. T'Era Garrett blasted her first homerun of the year, Tessa Turner hit .400 with a homer, D'ayrrah Womack batted .375 in the cleanup spot, and Edid Balderas had three runs batted in during her first weekend ever of playing softball.
The Lady Mustangs will host their own tournament this week. The games will be played at the West Orange Stark High School softball field on February 23-25.