District 28-5A rivals become Saints teammates
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East Central and Southwest have raised the competitive levels of their programs over the last four years. Three players who’ve helped construct those foundations of success have cast their lot with an Our Lady of the Lake University program on a similar fast track to success.
Southwest senior Kamerie Vidales, the Express-News area softball player of the year, on June 4 joined Dragons teammate Amanda Sanchez and East Central rival Taylor Doege in committing to the Saints. Doege and Sanchez each made their college choices in October.
“Those are the types of kids that are going to just continue to make our kids better,” said fifth-year Our Lady of the Lake coach James Kling, including Saints recruits from powerhouses Hays and O’Connor in the comment.
“When they get up here, they’re used to giving it their all every game and playing a tough schedule. We need to get kids that love softball and want to continue playing hard.”
Our Lady of the Lake was the Red River Athletic Conference champion, winning first place in the regular season and taking the conference tournament championship. The Saints fashioned a 39-12-1 record and qualified for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national tournament.
OLLU is stockpiling quite a cadre of former Southwest players. Saints senior Katrisha Arocha pitched for the Dragons before transferring from Texas A&M-Kingsville to become an NAIA honorable mention all-American with OLLU.
Sanchez said the opportunity to play with Arocha again helped make the school a good fit for her.
“We’re really close friends,” she said. “I know a couple of girls on the team. That’s what was really a motivation to me. I’d be excited to play with them.”
Vidales, Sanchez and their Southwest teammates produced a record-setting season, advancing to the Class 5A state semifinals. The Dragons won the District 28-5A championship and finished with a sterling 35-12-1 record.
Making her college choice before the season helped Sanchez play more with a calmer demeanor during her senior season.
“The season was amazing,” Sanchez said. “It’s like the same team we’d been playing with for a long time, but we all learned a little more. It was a great experience, being able to make it that far for our school and our community.
“It was an amazing feeling, knowing that everyone on the team all had each other’s back. I let loose, knowing that if I messed up, I had the team behind me. I could go all out and dive (to make a catch).”
Doege, who helped East Central compile a 24-8 record and reach the area round of the playoffs, doesn’t anticipate any problems in adapting to her former Dragons district rivals as Saints teammates.
“It was a rivalry, but not a rivalry off the field,” Doege said. “Kamerie and I have talked outside of softball. I’ve never really talked to Amanda, but Kamerie and I have gotten along very well. It won’t be hard to become friends with them.”
The Hornets standout and Kling have been in contact since her sophomore season. She said the Saints coach had seen her play on travel teams, as well as with East Central, and Doege has attended OLLU games.
Before committing, Doege took a visit to the school to help decide between OLLU and Southwestern University in Georgetown. On the visit, she was surprised to see so many familiar faces among the Saints players.
“I played against a bunch of those girls in high school,” she said, “but I had no idea they went there. I knew of their abilities. I knew it was a very good softball team. It wasn’t hard to make a decision.”
Vidales will softball and volleyball for the Saints. The 6-foot senior will be an outside hitter in volleyball. In softball, she likely will fit in at first base, according to Kling. The first baseman-pitcher chose OLLU over the University of the Incanate Word.
“I was going to focus on softball,” she said, who was a hitting MVP as a middle blocker in volleyball. “It was a plus to go to school to play both but, if I could, I was going to try.”
Vidales batted .465 with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 43 RBIs. As a pitcher, she posted a 15-7 record with a 3.33 ERA. She will play in the Texas Girls Coaches Association all-star game in July.
“They had a successful season and a successful team,” Vidales said. “I felt like I could help out the team with my (hitting).”
Her home run power is expected to fill a need for the Saints.
“I’m counting on her big bat,” Kling said. “She hits the ball hard every time. I think that’s something we’ve been lacking the last couple of years.”
Vidales was a first-team all-district selection. Doege and Sanchez were chosen for the 28-5A second team.
Doege was a .300 hitter with three home runs and 13 RBIs for the Hornets. The first baseman-pitcher was 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA in the pitcher’s circle. Sanchez carried a .343 batting average with three triples and 10 RBIs. The left fielder stole 10 bases.
“Amanda gets after it. She can put a bunt down, she’s a great slap hitter and a very good baserunner,” Kling said. “Taylor hits the ball very well. She could eventually turn into a No. 3 hitter. She consistently hits the ball in the gaps and occasionally hits home runs. We’ll work with her as a pitcher for us as well.”
MORE TO COME