Most Viewed Stories
Leal adjusting to new role in Raider lienup
As a freshman and sophomore, all Krysthian Leal had to worry about was getting on base.
Now a junior, the Cibola second baseman is adjusting to his new role as a middle-of-the-lineup threat.
After topping the Raiders in batting average last year, Leal leads Cibola into Gila Valley Region play at 7 p.m. today at Kofa.
Cibola had won seven of 10 games heading into Monday, when the Raiders lost 11-1 to Yuma High in a nonregion game. They face a suddenly hot-hitting Kings team, which beat San Luis 10-0 on Wednesday after struggling offensively all year.
"We need a win against Kofa," Leal said. "We need a lot of wins against all these region teams because our goal is to make state. The last two years we've been a win away. We need every win we can get."
The Raiders (7-7 overall, 4-2 AIA) enter today's game 10th in the 5A-II power rankings, with the top 16 going to state. But they'll get an automatic berth with a region title.
"We got beat pretty good by Yuma High the other day, and San Luis got beat by Kofa pretty well," Cibola coach Duane Evans said. "San Luis is supposed to be the elite of the league at this point. I think whoever shows up and plays their game. I don't see a dominant team, I don't see a weak team. I think anybody is capable at any point of winning games."
For the Raiders to win games, Leal will need to produce like he has lately. He had been batting second for most of his first two varsity years, but this year he has had to adjust to batting third. That adjustment has taken some time, Evans said.
"In that aspect his thing was to just get on base and set up," Evans said. "Now he's the guy we set up for. We're trying to get people on so when he's up he has a chance to knock them in."
Leal said he's beginning to learn that lesson.
"I was trying to do too much," Leal said. "I was thinking it was all me, but the team's been helping me. All I want is for my team to get on base so I can try to drive them in."
In trying to adjust to his new roll, he was trying to do too much. Recently he has simplified, and he is starting to return to his 2009 form, when he hit .429, scored 24 runs and drove home 23. In half a season as a freshman, he hit .408. After a slow start this year, he's flirting with .400 and already has two home runs.
"I started off a little slow because I was feeling a little off," Leal said. "Lately I've been feeling alright and my team's been helping me. They've been getting on base, and that motivates me to get more hits."
Evans said Leal is a big part determining how well the Raiders do. When they got off to an 0-4 start, Leal was pushing too hard, Evans said.
"He put a lot of pressure on himself early in the year to get things going," Evans said. "Once he settled in and used his natural ability, good things started to happen for him."
And matters were made even more difficult by the fact teams know that Leal is a big threat in the Cibola lineup, so he's seeing less pitches to hit, Evans said.
"This year and the senior year are going to be, I don't want to say tougher, but it's always tougher when you're an established player and people know what you're capable of doing and they don't want you to do it against them," Evans said. "He's got to be a little more patient as a freshman or sophomore when they're pretty much going to come after you. They don't know who you are and you're going to get a lot better pitches to hit."
Evans said that this year is going to teach him valuable lessons that will come in handy next season.
"I think this year is a good learning experience for him to learn how to be more patient and be more selective in what he's trying to do," Evans said. "He's learning to take the ball the other way for hits and other little things other than just standing in the box and picking it up and trying to hit it hard.
"Everybody knows what he is and what he's capable of doing," he said. "They're not going to give him a lot of stuff to hit, but he's handled himself well and hit the ball well."