It was Friday Mar 13 when the Alice Lady Coyotes faced Laredo Cigarroa after losing two back to back games prior to that. Still, prior to those losses, they had good momentum going into district play.
Coach Janay Gonzalez had been working with most of this squad for 4 years. Many of them started on the varsity in their freshman year and now, as seniors, this team, who had worked so hard, were about to play what would become their biggest game of the season.
"The pregame talk I had with them, I told them to play this game like it was their last because we don’t know what’s going to happen," Gonzalez said. "They went out and played one heck of a game."
Indeed, it was one heck of a game. Freshman Ava Hernandez pitched a shutout and allowed only one hit as the Lady Coyotes defeated Cigarroa 13 - 0 in a game that was overshadowed by news of a global pandemic that was reaching our nation and about to alter every way of life including spring athletics.
"Our momentum was really good and then all this happened," Gonzalez said. "You just feel really bad for these girls because they’ve been working so hard."
"I feel bad because we had nine seniors," Gonzalez said. "All the girls have been working really hard this season. We wanted to earn a playoff spot."
The Lady Coyotes came into this season with nine seniors on their roster; Cassidy Joslin, Meaghan Molina, Adely Pando, Sam Hinojosa, Kayla Escobar, Kayla Hernandez, Layla Rodriguez, Hannah Rodriguez and Maria Young. They will also be returning juniors Maylynn Saenz and Mia Longoria and freshmen Ava Hernandez and Jackie Molina
Samantha "Sam" Hinojosa, the daughter of Hector and Marisa Hinojosa and older sister of Jackie has been playing softball since she was six years old.
"I also play volleyball and basketball but softball is my main sport," Hinojosa said. "I’ve played softball my entire life."
Hinojosa is an all around utility player who plays outfield, first base as well as pitches. Her last game against Cigarroa, she had 2 RBIs on a double. She has been playing on varsity all four years of high school.
Since that game, Hinojosa said it’s definitely been a challenge to keep herself game ready.
"I’ve been running here at the house, because I can’t go anywhere, in my backyard on my treadmill," Hinojosa said. "We also have Google classroom where coach will send us our workouts for what to do to keep us busy."
After graduation, Sam plans on going into finance or accounting and hopes to walk on to a softball program but is currently undecided where to pursue her education. What is certain is she is ready to get back on the field and get back to work.
"I hope to get back on the field soon, this is not how I pictured my senior year to be," Hinojosa said.
Like Sam, Meaghan Molina has been playing softball all of her life. The daughter of Rick and Rachel Molina plays second base for the Lady Coyotes and has been playing in various select and little league teams since the age of seven. She also plays on the volleyball team as well as her involvement with Operation Graduation, FFA and the National Honors Society. She plans to study biology on an academic scholarship at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio.
For Molina and her teammates, going into the Cigarroa game playing as hard as they did and not knowing what was to come after really brought the game into perspective.
"This just made us appreciate the game more," Molina said. "It’s hard having something that’s been in our lives for so long just be taken away from us in the snap of a finger. It was just hard to let it sink in knowing that the last game we played, we didn’t know that it would be our last game."
As with all students and student athletes, getting used to new adjustments in curriculum and training is definitely a challenge.
"It’s hard (going) from practicing our skills Monday through Friday and having a set schedule of workouts," Molina said. "All the kids are at home and all we can do is hit off the tee and work some fielding. It’s just individual workouts at home."
"The team bond is not there when you’re working individually but you can still get yourself up to par or where you need to be," Molina said.
The bond she mentions is one that many athletes hold strong, especially in teams that have grown up and played together for so long.
"This is a bond we hold so strong," Molina said. "It’s crazy how much trust we have in each other. We can go on the field and know we have each other’s back."
Since the UIL suspensions due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, Molina and her teammates have continued to maintain communications with each other and their coaches Gonzalez, MiReina Garcia and Katelyn Stephens.
"We have a giant group message and we always text how much we miss each other," Molina said. "It’s not the same; we took it for granted seeing each other every day. It’s just so different now."
Still, Molina, Hinojosa and the rest of the team remain optimistic about being able to get back out there on the field
"I hope that everything goes back to normal so that we can be on the field again. I really do miss it a lot." Hinojosa said.
"Everything happens for a reason. We just need to trust the timing," Molina said. "They’re the best team I’ve ever played with."