LYFORD — “Leave it better than you found it.” That is the motto the Lyford Lady Bulldogs live by and it’s one that coach Joey Rios has instilled in his players and in his third year at the helm, Rios has the Lady Dogs believing.
In 2017, Lyford reached new heights by not only rolling through district with a perfect record but reaching the third round of the playoffs.
“The kids are very excited to hit the field,” Rios said. “The kids are learning how to hold each other accountable and that’s helping me out. The older girls are taking charge and running the hitting stations. Last year’s success motivates the younger girls. We kept our motto the same and the girls want to go out there and get it done.”
This season Lyford has five returning starters including seniors Evelyn Ortiz and Serena Rodriguez. Ortiz will take the circle and serve as the team’s ace.
“It has hit me that this is my senior year,” Rodriguez said. “I think about next year and how everything will be different for me. As a senior I know what is expected and I know how things run. I help teach the younger girls the drills and certain techniques. Every year we learn something new so I do my best to show them the way. At first base I also show them how to play the position.”
Rodriguez will team up with sophomore Jerrica Rojas on the corners of the infield. Rodriguez will play first while Rojas will occupy third base. Rojas, who was named the Valley Morning Star’s 2017 Newcomer of the Year, is poised to have a strong season.
“I’m excited and ready for this year,” she said. “I feel like a sophomore, because of how much experience I have, but when I step on the field I feel like a senior. I feel confident every time I step on the field. Over the offseason I worked on my hitting and I also worked on my pitching. I worked on my spin and worked on some pitching.”
Lyford has a strong group of sophomores that are expected to have a role this season. Rojas leads the group of sophomores as she will also step in the circle with Ortiz creating a solid 1-2 punch. Jessica Cruz will play catcher this season and has good chemistry with both Rojas and Ortiz.
This season, freshman Hannah Garza is turning heads through the first few weeks of the preseason. The steady hand and speed from Garza has the youngster thriving at the shortstop position and as a leadoff batter.
“Our defense this year is going to be strong and we have a lot of team speed,” Rios said. “We ran the bases well last week and that’s something I will be relying on. I have a few seniors back who know how to lead and they have been in big games. A lot of my juniors and sophomores have also been in big games so they know how to lead as well. The kids understand what is at stake and the upperclassmen hold the younger girls accountable.”