Varsity softball team

Members of the 2021 RFHS softball team, pictured with Aransas County Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Joshua Garcia (middle), are, back row, from left, Jordan Hall, Alana Garcia, Alyssa Rodriguez, Krystal Kutach, Lydia Zavala, Maddie Mann, Siarah Galvan, Mikey Dominguez, and Emma Groseclose; front row, from left, Kelsey Polasek, Kymberlyn Gerloff, Payton Martinez, Paige Torres, Astasia Roe, and Piper Shearer. Not pictured, is Jordan Garza.

The 2021 Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) Lady Pirate softball team has spent the last three weeks as the #1 ranked 4A softball team in Texas, according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) poll.

In her 14 years as RFHS Head Softball Coach, Melissa Reyes said she’s never had a team recognized as best in the state, let alone in the TGCA’s top 25 poll.

“It’s a huge honor of course and it’s great for the girls to be recognized,” said Reyes. “All their hard work is showing and for that I’m happy.”

Reyes said she’s had open dialogue with her team about the recognition and said she’s emphasized the responsibility that comes with it.

“We didn’t want to take anything away from that, but we also know with that comes a lot of responsibility,” said Reyes. “We talk about remaining humble, and continuing to work hard, because although you’re ranked #1 in the state, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be playing in June.

“So we know we have to stay humble, we have to continue to work hard, be disciplined, be a unit; and those are the goals we have that are going to carry us deep into the playoffs.”

Senior catcher Mikey Dominguez said she feels this year’s team is laser focused and has one goal in mind: State.

“I feel like everyone has the same goal in mind: Go to state and bring back a medal,” said Dominguez. “We all have the drive for it and we want to finish it.”

So far, RFHS is 14-1 this season and 3-0 in district play. Their lone loss this season was in tournament play, a 5-4 loss to Corpus Christi Carroll. Carroll is currently ranked #23 in the TGCA’s top-25 poll in Class 5A.

The team has been nothing short of dynamic offensively. In their last home game against West Oso, RFHS won 29-0 and did it in three innings. Reyes could only recall one other time in 14 years at RFHS where one of her teams scored into the early 20’s, but said 29 runs was by far the most scored by any of her teams.

Reyes said a big reason for their success offensively has been the presence of a true pitching staff.

“We have a pitching staff, and we have JV pitchers that can pitch well also,” said Reyes. “We try to do as much live hitting as we can.”

Dominguez echoed Reyes in the benefit of having a larger pitching staff.

“Our pitchers really help us a lot by pitching live in almost every practice,” said Dominguez. “Offense has never really been our strong suit, our defense has carried us (in the past). But now our offense is really coming along, so I feel like we’re a better team now.”

Senior shortstop Maddie Mann said the diversity of their batting lineup has been very difficult for opposing pitchers to stop.

“In the beginning (prior seasons), we never really had left-handed slappers and I think they bring a lot to the team when it comes to the small ball and getting on base,” said Mann.

Even senior pitcher Siarah Galvan, who is also one of RFHS’ big hitters, acknowledged how tough their lineup can be to opposing pitchers.

“We even have big batters that go up and bunt,” said Galvan. “Not a lot of teams expect that if they know you hit well. They don’t really expect you to go out there and bunt.”

RFHS carries three pitchers on their varsity team in Galvan, Jordan Hall, and Kymberlyn Gerloff. Galvan, who’s been used exclusively in the past three years as RFHS’ lone starting pitcher, said having a pitching staff this season has been a huge help for her.

“I’m so glad this year we actually have pitchers to help me,” said Galvan. “Last year in the playoffs (2019), my wrist started to hurt a lot since I was the only one pitching. But this year, nothing like that has happened because I have pitchers behind me that I know can take care of business.”

Looking at the district, RFHS will be in for a battle at the top against the likes of Ingleside, Sinton, and Calhoun in District 26-4A.

The rest of the district consists of Beeville, Miller, and West Oso.

Calhoun is new to the district after dropping down from 5A. RFHS defeated them 4-2 Tuesday, March 2.

Along with RFHS, Ingleside is also ranked in the TGCA 4A top-25 poll at #24.

The Lady Pirates consist of four seniors, six juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen.

Seniors are Dominguez, Galvan, Mann, and Lydia Zavala. All four of them have been on the varsity team since their freshman year.

Dominguez is RFHS’ starting catcher and will continue her softball career at Vernon College.

Galvan is RFHS’ starting pitcher and will continue her softball career at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.

Mann is RFHS starting shortstop and will continue her softball career at Harding University.

Zavala backs up left and centerfield. She said the experience and chemistry she’s built with her teammates has helped bring their younger outfielders up to speed.

“Being on the team for four years and knowing all the drills we’ve done throughout the years, it’s been really great to teach them what we know,” said Zavala. “We all just help everybody out. We all come from different places, knowing different skills, always teaching each other different things and helping each other out.”

Juniors are Krystal Kutach, Payton Martinez, Paige Torres, Hall, Jordan Garza, and Kelsey Polasek.

Kutach has been a big playmaker at second base for RFHS.

Reyes said Kutach has developed greatly from observing the leadership and play of seniors Mann, Galvan, and Dominguez.

“She’s fearless. She’s going to give you everything she has,” said Reyes. “She probably has one of, if not the dirtiest uniform on the team. She’s not afraid to dive, run anybody over; she will do whatever she has to do to get the job done.”

Reyes said Martinez is one of a couple players that has taken a big leap in her game from last season. She is RFHS’ starting centerfielder.

“Payton has wheels for days,” said Reyes.

Torres and Garza provide depth in the outfield and primarily use their speed as base runners. Reyes said having them, along with others, has provided the team with something they’ve never really had before: quality depth.

“One of the best things I think we’ve had more of than any other year I’ve coached, is depth,” said Reyes. “We have a pitching staff, our role players, our subs, that are strong. And should anything happen, can come in and fill a spot. That’s something we’ve never really had in the past.”

Hall backs up Galvan and has gotten considerable playing time this season. Reyes said Hall’s role will increase even more in the playoffs.

Polasek, a two-year starter, is slowly working her way back from a hand injury and has been seeing more playing time at third base.

Sophomores are Alana Garcia, Astasia Roe, Alyssa Rodriguez, and Gerloff.

Garcia starts at right field for RFHS and tag teams with Martinez to create a dynamic duo.

“They bring a different dynamic to our team,” said Reyes. “They can come up with the big hit, they can come up with a well-executed bunt, you just never know. They keep defenses guessing with what they’re going to do and they execute very well.”

Reyes said they even worked with former Lady Pirate Loren Kelly in the offseason. Kelly is currently an outfielder for Texas A&M University – Kingsville.

Rodriguez is RFHS’ starting third baseman. In relief of the injured Polasek, Reyes said Rodriguez has come in and done a great job.

“She didn’t play very much last year, but she’s worked hard and been doing a great job for us,” said Reyes.

Roe is a backup for numerous positions across the field and is also used as a base runner.

Gerloff has been a welcome addition to the team this year as a move-in. She starts at first base and is also a relief pitcher for Galvan.

“She’s got a sassy personality and it sparks us,” said Reyes. “She’s been a great asset for our team.”

Freshman are Emma Groseclose and Piper Shearer.

Reyes said Groseclose has been a “big-time sponge” and is going to be a special player for them. She starts at right field.

Shearer is RFHS’ designated hitter. Reyes said Shearer is very disciplined in her pitch selection and brings another source of positive energy to the team.

“She’ll go up and get two strikes on her, and all of a sudden, she’s in a full-count situation, and she gets walked more than anyone I know,” said Reyes.

At press deadline, RFHS has nine district games remaining and sits atop District 26-4A undefeated. After playing Beeville Friday, March 19, their next district game is 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23 at home against Ingleside.

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