HAWKS PROVE TO THEMSELVES THEY’RE CONTENDERS

JAMES YODICE

Of the Journal

This is one instance where the schedule tells a bald-faced lie. It would appear at first glance that the Volcano Vista baseball season began to take a turn for the healthy two weeks ago, when the Hawks came from way back to beat Eldorado and then two days later dominated Carlsbad 6-1. That statement might be true, but not nearly to the extent you might imagine. And maybe even not at all. “It kind of happened a little bit before Carlsbad,” senior second baseman/pitcher Andre Vigil said. The Hawks on March 30 fell to 5-6 after a gut-wrenching extra-inning loss to Sandia. It was actually that loss that set into motion this April surge. It was a team-only meeting — a meeting of young, frustrated, irritated minds — that has kick-started Volcano Vista into the type of baseball everyone expected from them but hadn’t seen through that first, forgettable month. And it was in that meeting that Volcano Vista decided to adopt a new slogan for 2013: “Prove It.” “You could definitely say it cleansed everything,” senior first baseman Dylan Dudley said. These types of gatherings, of course, happen all the time. Sometimes at the urging of a coach, sometimes from with in the team itself. Volcano Vista coach Kevin Andersh said he has encouraged previous teams to hash out their differences. He didn’t do that this time. And he wore a wry smile on his face when he said this, clearly pleased that his players demonstrated some initiative. “I was aware of the meeting,” Andersh said. “Sometimes, that’s what it takes.” The Hawks after that 3-2 setback decided to do a little self-policing of their own and make an effort to repair a season that was teetering on the edge. “We sat down and had a talk and decided to figure it out,” senior shortstop Brock Sullivan said. “We knew that unless we started winning, our season would go by pretty quickly.” Since that powwow, Volcano Vista is 5-0. The Hawks have a crucial doubleheader in District 1-5A today against visiting Rio Rancho at 10 a.m. It is clear that Volcano Vista is playing the most concise, crisp baseball of any team in 1-5A at the moment, and their surge is well timed since we have reached the final three weeks of the regular season. The Hawks had a renewed sense of purpose coming out of that March 30 meeting. They went out and pounded Valley, erased an 8-2 deficit against Eldorado two days later, and then Vigil stymied the Cavemen on that Saturday. That was 14 days ago. “These guys have to take it on themselves to set things straight,” Andersh said. Emotionally and psychologically, Volcano Vista is a new team. Invigorated. The Hawks are having fun. But they’ve also cleaned up the mess with better baseball. Fewer strikeouts, for example. More base runners. Unself ish at-bats from one end of the order to the other. The team’s first slogan — “We On?” — “didn’t work,” said Vigil, a University of New Mexico signee. “After we (changed it), we’ve just been projecting it.” All the Hawks understood they would face great expectations this spring. With most every starter returning, Volcano Vista was expected to contend with the likes of Sandia and Carlsbad in Class 5A. “At the beginning,” Vigil said, “we thought we were gonna be one of the top dogs.” Then, he added, it hit the Hawks hard — maybe they weren’t the team they thought they were. Those 15 minutes after the Sandia game have cured their ills. “We got all our feelings out,” said the versatile Sullivan, who has been a starter at three positions in his varsity career, having been a catcher and third baseman before Andersh moved him to shortstop this year. “We needed to figure it out. (And now), I think we’re a completely different team. We’re a stronger team. This is the team we should have been all along.” Had Volcano Vista been underachieving? Not everyone is in total agreement on this, but that’s the consensus. But as we enter the season’s final month, the Hawks are now very much in that conversation of threats to win a state championship. “We realized that we are a much better team than how we were playing,” Dudley said. “That Carlsbad win was a big momentum-changer. It showed us who we are and what we’re capable of.” The Hawks don’t need another meeting to confirm that. Not anymore.

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