Injuries have hit the Goodyear Desert Edge softball team hard. But that just made players like Ari Samaniego hit harder and Cyra Wentz pitch better.
Desert Edge, which entered this week 13-4 overall, has lost an outfielder, two infielders and subsequently its No. 2 pitcher to injuries this season. The situation has forced players, both the experienced and younger ones, to step up.
“Our catcher (Julie Sanchez) and our pitcher (Wentz) are our two seniors, and they just decided it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a sophomore, if you’re out there, you’re not lowering expectations,” Desert Edge coach Rob Shorts said.
“The seniors are helping them understand the level of play is different. It’s the grind of the high-school season rather than the quick sprint of club ball on weekends. They have done a great job of helping others understand that.”
Wentz has been a star pitcher since her sophomore year. This season is no different.
“She’s been lights out,” Shorts said. “She threw a perfect game against (Avondale) Agua Fria and again against (Avondale) La Joya. I’m only giving her a certain number of pitches and have cut her innings way down. In the last couple of years, she had problems going into the playoffs. She’s not been as healthy or been as fresh. But her numbers haven’t dropped at all. She’s been phenomenal for us.”
The situation hasn’t slowed Desert Edge’s sophomore power hitter, Samaniego, either. Samaniego hit six home runs in her first 59 at-bats, just three shy of what she hit last season with about a month left in this season. Shorts admires Samaniego’s work ethic and passion for the sport.
“She just loves to play,” Shorts said. “She’s one of the kids who, if she can be in the cage 24 hours a day, she would be. She absolutely loves to play. She gets after it and is one of the hardest-working kids we’ve got. It’s amazing. She actually came the summer before her freshman year for one of our hitting camps, and it didn’t take long before the ball was jumping off her bat.”
Samaniego, a catcher, is getting national recruiting attention from some of the country’s top Division I programs, including Minnesota, Auburn and New Mexico.
“It’s fun watching her develop, it really is,” Shorts said. “As a player, she’s really gifted and she’s starting to understand how good of a player she is and what that means. Colleges are calling her, and she’s starting to figure out she’s a pretty good player. It’s neat to see her mature with that. I never had a Division I-type recruit before.”
All Samaniego knows is that she is doing her job, nothing else.
The best thing about hitting a home run?
“Helping my team win,” she said. “I just go out on the field and hit like what is expected of me.”