Three Lady Buffs softball players share family, team ties.




On first appearance, Haley Saldana, Shai Cartmill and Jordan Terrones appear to be your typical happy-go-lucky, high school girl athletes.

They fit in well with their teammates, whether they be freshmen, sophomore classmates, or junior-senior upperclassmen.

But there's more to the three Garden City Lady Buffs varsity players than just the fact they are all three starters on a youthful team that sports an impressive 11-4 record.

Athletic teams many times talk about the close-knit relationship they develop, but in the case of these three, it's even more so.

That's because Saldana, Cartmill and Terrones are cousins.

And they are no strangers to playing softball together. As a matter of fact, they've been on the diamond together since around the fourth grade when they began playing competitive softball in the 10 and under age group with the Garden City Razzles. In the ensuing years, they've been teammates on a 12-and-under team that won a Kansas state championship one summer.

Listening to the three, one certainly gets the idea that they enjoy the fact that softball is a family affair.

"It's always been a lot of fun for us," said Terrones, who is solidly entrenched as the team's center fielder. "We always know we've got each other's back, and we know that about our other teammates, too."

Saldana, like Cartmill, plays more than one position, and it all depends on who is on the mound for the Lady Buffs.

When Dusti Befort pitches for the team, Saldana is behind the plate, running the team's defense, taking pitch signals from coach Trina Moquett, and generally making sure every player is in the right position.

"It's definitely a tough position," said Saldana, who is in her first year playing catcher. "You make the pitch calls, and you have to be a wall back behind there. You see everything. You can't let balls get past you."

Freshman Abbie Dart usually pitches the second game for the Lady Buffs, and when that happens, positions look like musical chairs.

Befort goes to first base and Cartmill, who plays that position when Befort pitches, heads out to left field. Saldana then occupies the shortstop position and Shea Nordby moves behind the plate. All in all, it keeps things interesting and lively for the threee cousins.

The family connection goes something like this:

Saldana and Cartmill's mothers are sisters and Terrones' mother is a cousin to those two. In addition, Saldana and Cartmill's grandmother and Terrones' grandfather are brother and sister. Okay, the family connection has been explained.

"It's pretty neat because we always have a lot of people coming to watch the games," said Terrones, who enjoys her spot in the outfield. "I'm pretty fast and I know my teammates are depending on me."

At home games, the Rowland family and all the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents show up and locate themselves just beyond the left field home run fence.

"We always know where they are," said Cartmill, who also starred for the GCHS tennis team in the fall. "I like playing both positions, and it's my first year at first base. There, you have to make sure your glove is in the right position. The balls coming at you that are on the ground are the toughest."

Saldana said the trio always takes extra time to get together and talk about how they played in games, and then prepare for the next opponent.

"Growing up together, we pretty much know how the others play, what they're thinking," Saldana said. "The benefit of all of us playing together is that our family can all watch us at the same time. It's always been that way."

The three girls said that family gatherings, especially in the summertime, usually result in some pick-up games.

"They don't let us all three be on the same team," Terrones said with a smile. "Well, I guess it would be a little unfair."

Terrones said that her mom is the person she talks with most about the sport, as does Saldana. Cartmill said it is her dad with whom she talks most about the game.

A year earlier, when all three were freshmen, there were two additional cousins on the Lady Buffs' rosterMeKayla Guerrero and Jordan Arellano.

"It's family first and we're super close," Saldana said. "It's the same with our teammates."

And what do the three think of being able to play high school varsity ball together?

"It shows that our hard work has paid off," Terrones said. "We started off young, so we feel like we're pretty experienced despite just being sophomores."

Saldana said being able to play with her cousins has been pretty special.

"It's an accomplishment that we made it here together," Saldana said.

One of the biggest experiences the three shared was when they were 14 and the local team competed in a softball world series in Orlando, Fla. It was there they got to see Team USA play.

"Definintely a highlight for all of us," Cartmill said. "We got to do so many neat things while we were there."

And while the three share those family ties, there is definitely individual differences, especially at school. Saldana chose English as her favorite class, Terrones chose Yearbook while Cartmill enjoys World History.

"What is the most common thing about us?" Saldana said when asked. "Probably our athleticism. I think we're all good athletes and like to compete."

They credited many family members for introducing them to the sport and for being able to enjoy playing.

"I think everyone in the family has played some sport," Saldana said. "So it really is a lot of fun. We have a big, big family and everyone enjoys the family when we're together."

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