The Trinidad State softball team, under the direction of Head Coach Steve Swazo who is beginning his 15th year at the school, has high expectations. Last year before COVID halted play the Lady Trojans were 6-0 in conference and had 13 wins overall, they hope to build on that momentum going into the 2021 season.
“Despite our team playing every game on the road last year, things were looking very positive,” said Swazo. “I believe we would have been right in the hunt for a regional title and then our season ended.”
Trinidad returns nine sophomores with plenty of playing time last year along with two transfers. Coming back for their second year are Bailey Griego, Gianna Paape, Morgan Pantaleo, Anna Palomar, Sydney Stewart, Emilee Younger, Karina Nomi, Marissa Reyes, Haley Valdez along with incoming transfers Jayden Gandert, a D1 transfer from UNM and Aiyana Bravo from Garden City.
“We are very fortunate that most of our sophomores played a lot last year,” Swazo said. “Along with the two transfers we will have a lot of experience to guide our young freshmen.”
Griego, a pitcher from California, led the team with five wins in the circle along with a .491 batting average. Valdez was second on the team hitting .489 and Paape was not too far behind hitting .464 and leading the team in home runs with five. Pantaleo was a perfect 4-0 in the circle with a team leading 1.79 ERA.
To compliment the sophomores, Swazo believes many freshmen will see plenty of playing time this season. New to the team are ten freshmen including Ciara Salazar, Gabby Varela, Ka’Zem Wood, Ramona Fossum, Gabby Montoya, Elisa Uliberi, Chaunelle Penn, Jacy Finley, Katie Deville and Andrea Thompson.
“Every one of our freshmen have the potential to see a lot of playing opportunities,” Swazo said. “Each player will push our sophomores at every position which should make us even better as the season progresses.”
The Lady Trojans Softball team opens their 2021 spring season February 5-6 at Vernon College who was ranked 17th in the nation last year before COVID hit. Then the following weekend they travel to Odessa, Texas for five games playing four different teams.
“Again, we have a very tough opening two weeks of our season, but I believe to be the best, you can’t shy away from top competition and that’s what we will face those first two weekends,” the Trinidad coach said. “I believe playing some quality teams for our non-conference games will prepare us for our regional competition.”
The Trojans begin their 30-game conference schedule March 4-6 which will consist of home and away games within the Region 9 conference.
“I believe the region is going to be very balanced this year,” Swazo said. “Each team in our region has improved and should make the season very interesting.”
This season Swazo will be assisted by first year assistant Tori Martinez. Martinez, who is an alumnus from Trinidad State and was a member of the first ever softball team at Trinidad State to win a Region 9 Championship in 2017. Besides a goal to win the schools third Region 9 title, Swazo will be vying for his 400th career win at the college as he is only 26 wins away.
“The wins and titles are nice but my ultimate goal as a coach is to see my girls graduate and for them to become successful after they leave Trinidad State,” Swazo said. “Our goal is to compete every game we play in and just try and get better throughout the season. This will put us in a position to win at the end of the year.”
The Lady Trojans first home games, played at the newly renovated Southside Park, will be Saturday, Feb. 20 against Garden City for a doubleheader. For a complete schedule and to get to know TEAM #15, visit the TSJC athletic website at www.tsjctrojans.com.