Originally published on Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Sarah Sainz entered this season with a plan: She wanted to make sure she got better at the plate.
With the help of her coaches, the St. Joseph senior knew exactly what she needed to focus on.
"My weakness is the outside," she said. "I need to work on it. I can drive inside pitches, but the outside pitches are tough, so I work on it on the tee."
Sainz had a sacrifice fly that brought in one of St. Joseph's runs Tuesday in a 3-1 win over San Antonio Holy Cross to seize first place in TAPPS District 3-4A. The senior also walked twice.
Her improvements at the plate have not gone unnoticed.
"Her bat is really coming around. She's really swinging strong lately," said St. Joseph coach Rudy Diaz. "She's come close to cracking one over the fence a few times.
"She's hitting more line drives, and not dipping as much."
But it isn't all about that.
Diaz said he often looks to Sainz, who pitches and plays left field for the Lady Flyers, to be a key contributor.
Being one of the team's five seniors puts her in a privileged role as a leader. If that means giving herself up on defense or at the plate, or going out to the circle and pitching several innings, so be it.
"She's an all-around ballplayer," Diaz said. "Her left field is awesome. I really need her out there. Maturity is everything. She's really taken a good role this year."
Her goal? Same as the rest of the team: To get back to the top.
She was a member of the 2011 Lady Flyers team that won a TAPPS state softball title, and is hoping to get back to state again as a senior.
"We work well with each other. We focus on what benefits the team and work together," she said. "We're motivated to get to the top and see what we can do."
Beating Holy Cross is a good start. The Lady Flyers were able to get on the board early thanks to a break on a passed ball that scored Alyssa Adames, then added the clinching runs in the third inning, including Sainz's sacrifice fly.
Sainz, along with sophomore Amanda Sohrt and freshman Hannah Novosad, make up a dangerous troika in the circle for the Lady Flyers as they pursue a second TAPPS state title in three years.
Diaz said she has a natural screwball from the way she snaps her wrist on most of her pitches. The extreme movement is enough to throw off batters who are expecting something different.
"Having the combination of Amanda Sohrt and Sarah Sainz pitching, you can really throw a team off," Diaz said. "Amanda throws hard, but if team's start catching her in the fourth or fifth, Sarah is a good weapon to have."
Diaz didn't have to turn to Sainz on Tuesday.
Sohrt, despite only getting three strikeouts in the game, held Holy Cross without a hit for 31/3 innings, letting her defense do the work for her.
The Lady Knights got just four hits on the game, with their lone run coming in the fifth inning on a throwing error that would have been the final out of the inning.
Sainz has worked on her pitching ability during each of the last four seasons, although she's seen considerably more action as a pitcher this year than previously.
A lot of that, she said, comes from preparation.
"My pitching has improved a lot," Sainz said. "I've gotten to know the batters a lot better."
• Adames was 3 for 3 at the plate with a triple and two runs. She scored on a passed ball in the first inning and on a Peyton Cuellar fielder's choice on a grounder to second base.
• The Lady Flyers are back in action at home on Thursday against Austin Hyde Park.