PLEASE NOTE: The high school sports season is suspended until further notice
Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Although high school sporting events appear to be in some jeopardy thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns, local softball teams are still looking ahead, hoping for some kind of season.
This is a brief look at some teams that have been regulars in contending for post-season berths or are building toward that level.
It’s been so long since Capital has been in the postseason that MaxPreps records don’t even go that far back.
But that changed this season.
Starting five years ago, when Sig Rivera and Dennis Hernandez took over the Jaguars program, it has made steps toward competitiveness.
“When we started, we were playing a varsity schedule with a JV team,” he said. “We were young. Those girls that started four years ago, they left, but they left a good foundation behind them.”
With Hernandez taking over as the first-year head coach, Capital is ready to reap the rewards of those steps.
“When I started four years ago working with Sid, we had the vision to turn the program around and make it more competitive, especially with the metro teams,” Hernandez said. “It’s pulling them up from their bootstraps. In northern New Mexico, travel softball isn’t a big thing. So, they were getting to the high school level and we were teaching them what they should have learned when they were younger: mindset, and how to play the game and different situations.”
It certainly helps that the Jags can boast of having one of the state’s top bombers in senior first baseman and pitcher Angelica “Jelly” Angel, who last year hit .593 with 43 RBI, while rocketing 12 homers – one of the top totals in the state.
Junior shortstop Alex Hernandez swings a pretty mean stick herself at .544, with two homers and 35 RBI.
And senior Emma George (.533, 35 runs) and junior Marley Cardenas (.369, 25 runs) are coming along, as is junior Rebecca Sorenson, while big things are expected from freshmen Anika Rodriguez and Layla Cintron.
“Our lineup is pretty strong this year,” coach Hernandez said. “We still have some girls we have to work on. We’re not a solid one through nine, but we’re solid.”
And the goal is to make it to the state tournament.
“One is to go out and have a strong first half of the season, play in some tournaments against stronger schools and see how we stack up against them,” he said. “Then, in the second half, we have to walk away with that district title. Albuquerque High and Manzano are always tough girls. They play travel ball year round. We have to take games away from teams we have not yet beat. Manzano and Albuquerque High put a hurting on us last year, so we’ve put a focus on ways to beat them.”
After a strong season, Española Valley could not keep it rolling in the state tournament, losing on the first weekend to a tough Artesia squad.
But Sundevils coach Robert Garcia is convinced that his team came away from that experience better for it.
“One of our goals was to at least make it there, so we met that,” he said. “We have three seniors this year and they want to try and go a little bit further. They saw how a quality team plays and they took a lot from that. They know they need to do that bit extra to make it better.”
Although the Sundevils have some strong returning players, some young players will need to step up their game, Garcia said.
“We’re a young squad,” he said. “We lost four seniors from last year’s team, so we have a couple of spaces we need to have filled.”
One of those will go to freshman utility player Ashley Osegueda, who can play all over the field. She hit .534, with three homers, 38 RBI and 35 runs to go along with 11 steals.
“She has a nice swing, real natural talent,” Garcia said. “And we’re trying to build her to get comfortable with the work ethic she needs.”
Autumn Vigil (.468), Jaide Romero (.472) and Sydney Pollard (14 steals) provide senior leadership. And sophomores Trinity Ortega (.417) and Missy Abeyta (.351, 31 runs) are expected to take steps forward.
Vigil, Hailey Guinn and Estrella Diaz will power the pitching staff.
The key for the Sundevils will be to survive what can be a pesky district.
“Sure it is,” Garcia said. “I think our district is evenly matched. It’s just a matter of who shows up and performs that particular day.”
West Las Vegas had a nice run into the state tournament and ended up finishing third overall at state.
It was a big step for the Dons program, coach Pamela Sandoval said.
“We learned that we can compete, we can compete with the best of the teams that are there at the state tournament,” she said. “In the past, once we got to the state tournament, we were shocked with the experience.”
That all changed, however, when WLV beat rival Robertson.
“After beating Robertson, the No. 1 seed in the state and crosstown rival who we had lost to all the time all season, it put a lot of confidence back into these girls,” Sandoval said. “Knowing that when we step back in there this year, we’re going to battle. We can take it all if the girls put their hearts and bodies into it.”
The Cardinals had swept all three regular season meetings and had won 16 straight dating back to 2014.
“That was our state championship,” Sandoval said. “When we walked into that game, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Everybody had ruled us out, we’re done, that’s it. But they went out there and gave it their all, and these girls didn’t stop. Having nothing to lose gave them everything to gain that day.”
The strength of the team is the pitching staff, with Jennifer Sanchez, Marquisa Montoya and Andrea Ulibarri, the coach said.
And the lineup is pretty solid top to bottom, giving Sandoval optimism for this season.
“We want to conquer district, that’s our first goal,” she said. “After district, play it out for state and hopefully bring home that blue trophy. Everybody has that goal for the blue trophy, but you have to get through district first.”