BERNALILLO — As mighty as the wind was Thursday afternoon, Shauncey Masawiestewa almost matched its strength.
On a day during which the wind consistently howled throughout a District 5-4A softball game between Santa Fe Indian School and Bernalillo in a battle for first place, Masawiestewa stole the show. The Lady Spartans junior starting pitcher flexed her muscle at the plate, blasting three home runs against Lady Braves pitching. She was a solo homer away from completing a “home run cycle” — a solo, two-run and three-run blasts plus a grand slam.
Her nine-RBI performance paced a high-powered Bernalillo attack that scored 12 runs over the final two frames for a 19-3 win in four innings in a battle between two of the top three teams in Class 4A (the Lady Spartans are No. 2, SFIS third), according to the MaxPreps.com’s Freeman rankings.
Of course, it helped that Bernalillo’s field faced the east, with a southwest wind that steadily blew at a 30 mph clip and gusted to as much as 45 mph to gave any midair ball a boost. Not that Masawiestewa needed any help — all her hits were on the nose.
“I was just seeing the pitch, and then just driving it,” Masawiestewa said.
After connecting on a three-run blast in the first, a two-run variety an inning later and a grand slam in the third, Masawiestewa didn’t have a chance to complete her homer cycle, what with Gaby Montoya and Angelica Navarro occupying the corners with no outs and the score 15-3 in the fourth.
Still, SFIS head coach Oliver Torres contemplated intentionally walking her and taking her chances with Mia Montaño, but it went against his coaching philosophy.
“I don’t believe in that,” Torres said. “On the fourth [at-bat], I thought about it, but I told [reliever Alexis Garcia] we’re gonna pitch to her. Stay inside, and if she walks her, she walks her.”
Instead, Garcia plunked Masawiestewa on the 3-1 pitch to load the bases and set the stage for Montaño, who deposited the second pitch she saw over the center field fence for a walk-off grand slam.
That was much to the delight of Bernalillo head coach Mike Montaño, Mia’s father.
“That’s exciting because that means, you know what they say about being able to protect great hitters?” coach Montaño said. “That’s a good cycle that you’re protecting each other, those top four or five hitters.”
It was the top of Bernalillo’s lineup that did much of the damage. The quartet of Montoya, Navarro, Masawiestewa and Montaño combined to go 11-for-13 with four homers, 13 RBIs, 14 runs, two walks and a hit batsman.
“That’s where all the runs were at, where all the RBIs were at,” Torres said. “That shows us for our next game plan is to control that top four. And with [Masawiestewa], we need to be very careful with her and [Montaño] and make sure not to make mistakes. We can’t leave the ball over the middle of the plate.”
For two innings, though, the Lady Braves (11-2 overall, 1-1 in 5-4A) showed they were capable of hitting Masawiestewa’s fastball. They led 2-0 after the top half of the opening frame, thanks to a Marcotte double, a passed ball on Leanna Lewis’ strikeout brought her to first and a two-run single by Lauren Bekise.
Masawiestewa erased that in the bottom half of the inning with her first home run, but SFIS responded with back-to-back doubles by Jayda Lucario and Raven Alcott in the top of the second to get within 4-3. While the Lady Spartans (14-4, 2-0) responded with four in the second, the Lady Braves tried to keep pace.
With Marcotte on first in the third, Caitlyn Cruz roped a two-out double to center that brought Marcotte rounding third. Julia Beyale’s throw from center bounced to Navarro, the catcher, and she tagged Marcotte as she reached the plate for the out in a bang-bang play.
“That would have been an answer-back,” Torres said. “Everything was going [the Lady Spartans’] way with some of the calls. Sometimes you get calls, and sometimes you miss them. That’s why momentum changers are important in baseball and softball. They can be rally killers and it dampened our spirit.”