Before the season, softball coach Mark Short told his players that they would improve by playing against schools that were bigger and stronger than they are.
Katarina Rivera, a pitcher, and Victoria Rivera, her catcher (and younger sister), were up for the challenge. After winning their school’s first state championship in any sport last year, upgrading St. Dominic Savio’s softball schedule seemed like a good idea.
At the time, anyway.
After going 19-5 last year and winning the state title, the Lady Eagles are 4-10.
“It’s one thing to lose, but another to get your butts kicked,” Victoria Rivera said. “I thought we could hang with the (upgraded) competition, for a while but …”
The sophomore catcher might have been speaking for the entire team when she said losing by lopsided scores to larger public schools got old. Even the coach had little idea how his squad from Northwest Austin — which plays in the Texas Association of Private and Schools, or TAPPS — would handle such a demanding schedule.
St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School (enrollment: 350) is 4-10, but the tough part of the season is in the rear-view mirror. The Lady Eagles were wounded after losing 15-0 to Round Rock (enrollment: 2,732), and 13-0 to McNeil (2,444) and 12-2 to Westwood (2,588), just to name a few.
“Coach told us from the beginning this would be no easy walk in the park,” Katarina Rivera said. “Some of the girls might have gotten a little discouraged (by losing). Others took it as a learning tool.”
That’s what Short was counting on.
“We were 19-5 last year, and I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but we played only a handful of really good teams until we reached the 3A TAPPS state playoffs,” Short said. “This year I set the schedule difficult on the front end. … I have told the girls that this schedule will pay off in the state playoffs, which I fully expect to make.”
The Rivera sisters, affectionately known as Kat and Cookie, have been teammates for about as long as they can remember, and they were two big reasons the Lady Eagles defeated Hallettsville Sacred Heart 7-4 in the TAPPS 3A championship game last year. With offensive contributions from senior shortstop Liz Sanchez and senior center fielder Anna Carter, the Lady Eagles outscored four 2012 playoff opponents 35-6.
Sanchez, who hit a team-high .756 last spring, can verify the team’s vital signs following the early-season meltdown are good. She had recent gall bladder surgery, forcing her to miss the first 10 games this year, and her return was felt instantly.
With a 2-0 district record, the Lady Eagles are starting to pick on teams their own size. Last week they rolled over San Antonio Holy Cross 3-1 and Corpus Christi Incarnate Word Academy, 10-0.
The early blowouts have benefited the Lady Eagles, Katarina Rivera said.
“I feel we’re becoming stronger, more solid on offense,” she said. “On defense we’re turning our plays quicker.”
Short said “momentum is on an upward” swing following these two district victories. Although St. Dominic Savio has been promoted from 3A to 4A in TAPPS — following an enrollment boost — a second state title is the team’s only goal.
“We’ll see some teams in Houston and DFW that are playing very, very well right now,” the coach said. “But if we can continue to get better each game and get hot like we did last year, we stand as good a chance as anyone. Why not?”
TAKING THEIR LUMPS
St. Dominic Savio, with an enrollment of 350 students, upgraded its softball schedule this season to play larger public schools in non-district. Here were the results:
Round Rock;5A;2,732;Round Rock, 15-0
Harker Heights;5A;2,433;Heights, 9-7
Harker Heights;5A;2,433;Savio, 8-7
Crowley;4A;1,325;Crowley, 14-3, 11-4
Liberty Hill;3A;750;Liberty Hill, 10-0
Note: Enrollments based on 2012-13 academic school year