Rudder vs. A&M Consolidated softball (copy)

Rudder’s Gabby Garcia is nearing a return as she recovers from an injury she sustained at a tournament in February.

The Rudder softball team is focused on regaining its strength after dealing with unexpected adversities at the start of the 2020 season.

The Lady Rangers have a 5-15 overall record and are 0-1 in District 19-5A after falling 12-2 to Magnolia West on March 3.

College Station ISD followed suit with Bryan ISD on Friday in closing its campuses this week, and the UIL announced it was suspending all events starting Monday through March 29 due to public health concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

With its season now on hold for at least the next couple of weeks, third-year head coach BJ Mendez said it’s a good time to rest and rehab injuries suffered earlier in the season.

“To be honest it’s not a bad thing because I have a senior who was playing at that Cedar Ridge tournament [at the end of February], Gabby Garcia, she’s our shortstop and she ended up getting cleated,” Mendez said. “She had a nice five-inch gash on her shin ... now, she’s getting ready to rehab a little bit more and we’ll see her on the softball field [when practices resume].”

Garcia’s injury is just one of many for the Lady Rangers. Mendez said injuries and off-the-field incidents caused Rudder’s roster to go down to 10, giving it barely enough players to fill out the nine-person field.

“Right now we’re dealing with adversity that we really didn’t expect, and we’re trying to roll with the punches right now and try to create a new identity for ourselves,” Mendez said.

Despite their challenges, the Lady Rangers have started to get back on track, finding a boost of confidence in the Lorena tournament the first weekend in March. Rudder went 3-2 at the tournament and beat Little River Academy 8-0 — a team that routed Rudder 6-1 at the Round Rock tournament at the end of February.

Rudder is also gaining support from two new additions to the team — Lady Ranger basketball’s sophomore guard-forward Charli Josey and volleyball’s junior libero Gracie Menchaca.

Menchaca returned to the team this year after taking her sophomore year off to focus her energy on volleyball. But with Rudder in need of more players, Mendez said Menchaca was ready to jump in and help. Both Josey and Menchaca have become crucial parts of the Lady Rangers, even after playing full seasons with other Rudder teams.

“We didn’t have many to start with, and she was able to come and help us out,” Mendez said. “Hopefully we can continue having her throughout the season because she’s one of our leading hitters right now, as far as batting average goes. Charli [Josey] is our leading hitter right now, hitting almost .400 and Gracie is right underneath her. Anytime you can have a little bit of competition, it always makes it better for everyone.”

With Josey and Menchaca lightening the load, Mendez said the Lady Rangers’ goal is still the same — make it to the playoffs. Rudder hasn’t made a playoff appearance since the 2010-11 season, when they were in District 14-4A and lost in bi-district round.

Rudder is confident it can put a stop to the eight-season drought with the help of its five seniors and players like Josey and Menchaca on the squad. Rudder’s chances at the playoffs go through a tough 19-5A, and it’s a challenge the Lady Rangers accept.

“Record wise, are we where we want to be? No,” Mendez said. “We know we can definitely play better than that, and we have played better than that. There’s great talent across our district. No win is easy in our district.”

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