SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe’s softball team was only a step away from the state playoffs a year ago, and a victory over Los Alamos in the regular season finale would have put the Demonettes right at the top of the district – and a guaranteed berth.
What if Santa Fe lost? The prevailing wisdom might have been, given that they were so close, they would deserve a place in the top 16.
Apparently not. The Demonettes found out, after losing to the Hilltoppers, that their regular-season resume wasn’t good enough.
But it sure is good enough for motivation for this season.
“It was real hard, especially for the senior girls,” Santa Fe coach Sig Rivera recalls. “I tell the girls that they’ve got to do it on the field right now – don’t leave it up to the selection committee.
“There were a few games early in the schedule last year that we should’ve won and didn’t,” he adds.
The Demonettes lost their two primary pitchers from 2011. Now it’ll be up to senior Stephanie Mendoca and eighth-grader Alex Russell to try to hold the opposition’s scoring down.
On their own offensive end, Santa Fe is led by senior catcher Francesca Perdue, senior third baseman Amber Madrid and sophomore twins Xeala Porras and Mykala Porras.
Rivera believes that Los Alamos is still the favorite in District 2-4A and Hilltopper fans, thanks to the presence of pitcher Monika Teter and shortstop Micaela Christensen and others, also have reason for optimism.
Los Alamos is also smarting a bit from the end of last season, as the ‘Toppers fell in extra innings in a first-round playoff game to Del Norte.
“The year before we lost 3-1 at state to St. Pius. We’ve been competitive, we play a pretty tough pre-district schedule,” Hilltoppers coach Roger Anaya says. “We pretty much have eight of the nine starters back. Hopefully, we’ll start where we left off last year. We’ve been exactly at eight (seeded at state) the last two years; hopefully we can get some victories against ranked teams early on this season.”
Kristin Christensen, Micaela’s cousin, will play at third for Los Alamos and Anaya will also look for leadership from senior Erin Kirk and Emily Lucero at catcher.
Bernalillo also figures to be tough in 2-4A while Española Valley and Capital will try to improve from down campaigns a season past.
Española had only a handful of wins in 2011 and that was a departure from previous years for coach Robert Garcia, now in his sixth year with the Sundevils.
Returning all but two of its players, Española will be guided on the field by seniors Robyn Valdez and Maria Serna, as well as junior Candyce Bustos – one of the ‘Devils’ best at the bat.
Bustos is also one of three players given a long look at the all-important pitching position, along with sophomore Marisa Martinez and senior Liza Archuleta.
“Maybe down the road it’ll work its way out,” says Garcia of finding an ace for the team.
At Capital, the Jaguars come off a season in which only one win was achieved.
Ina Mirabal, now in the third year of her second stint as the school’s softball coach, believes that players like junior catcher Jennifer Gonzales, sophomore shortstop Selena Gonzales and junior centerfielder Alyssa Glaze can help bring Capital back to respectability.
“We’re just trying to rebuild the program. It’s a slow process, but we’re making progress,” Mirabal says. “We worked them a lot in the summer and fall, so they are looking a whole lot better.”
Roseanne Noedel was the solo head coach once upon a time for St. Michael’s, but that was for one season 22 years ago. Then her brother Ron joined the staff and the sibling combo co-coached the Lady Horsemen ever since.
Now Roseanne is the solo Noedel with the team once more, and she’s got a solid group of returnees to make a run at District 5-3A honors. St. Mike’s, however, will have to do without standout Samantha McFall, who graduated, but nine players return, including sophomore pitcher Viola Pecos, sophomore catcher Julianna Valdez and junior shortstop Erin Torrez.
Noedel will have senior Adrienne Chavez at third and is hoping another Chavez, basketball standout Alexa, will move onto the diamond from the hardwood in the spring.
“I know that we’re going to have the hitting and can score runs,” Noedel says. “We just need to make sure our defense supports our pitching.”
In a district where every team qualified for the state playoffs, 5-3A might come down to a battle between the Albuquerque members (Hope Christian and Sandia Prep).
Santa Fe Indian finished with a 17-12 record and was able to play four games at the 2011 state tourney. But the Lady Braves lost nine seniors to graduation.
“It’s just starting over again with a lot of inexperience,” SFIS coach Leroy Valencia says.
Juniors Lenaya Martinez and Kyla Varga, at catcher and designated hitter, have punch in the hitting lineup, while sophomore Chasity Sam will be handed the pitching responsibility.
“It looks pretty good so far, but I don’t expect it to be comparable to last year at this point,” Valencia says.
More District 5-3A
Also in District 5-3A, Pojoaque comes off a season where it entered the playoffs as the 14th seed. The Elkettes bring back their pitching-catching battery from two years ago as senior hurler Ericka Chavez and senior backstop Amber Lovato have returned after sitting out their junior seasons.
“If we would’ve had those two last year, we would have been able to compete with Sandia Prep and Hope,” Pojoaque coach Ricky DeHerrera says.
Senior Kass Martinez, also a pitcher and designated hitter, figures to be a contributor, while freshman Analisa Martinez is invaluable as a backup at both shortstop and catcher for the Elkettes.
In District 2-3A, both Robertson and West Las Vegas appear to be ready to challenge for a championship and a high finish at state as well.
Robertson was seeded seventh at the Class 3A state tournament a year ago and only lost two seniors from that contingent.
Sophomore pitcher Elena Garcia figures to “throw a chunk of the games,” according to Cardinals coach Adrian Jaramillo, while Ashley Jaramillo and Miranda Aragon will also get chances.
Alicia Jaramillo, who hit at a .495 clip last season, is now a freshman and Robertson’s centerfielder, while Brandy Garcia is also key for the Cards at third base.
“Everybody’s basically an incumbent. We’re going to be real competitive,” Adrian Jaramillo says. “I feel we’re got one of the strongest districts in the state, and I feel like we can contend for first in the district.”
Likewise for West Las Vegas.
The Lady Dons bring the vast majority of their 2011 edition back for another try. West Las Vegas has five seniors at starting positions, as well as junior Marrissa Cordova at pitcher, where she has been since the eighth grade.
Senior first baseman Larrissa Gallegos, who has committed to play at Adams State come next fall, is a key hitter for the Lady Dons, while junior Gabrielle Griego also has college-level talent at the shortstop position.
“I think if my girls do what they’re supposed to do, we can be top three (in the state),” West Las Vegas coach Lucas Griego says. “We know what everybody’s got out there.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Taos is trying to improve on a two-win campaign from a year ago.
Elizabeth Winters, a junior for the Tigers, will handle much of the pitching chores, while sophomore shortstop Nikki Sanders and freshman Jenna Peralta have the most consistent sticks in the batting lineup.
Inconsistency has been a hallmark of the early going for Taos this season, as the Tigers suffered double-digit losses to Española and Cobre so far. But they also stayed within a single run of Sandia Prep in the season opener.
“We didn’t go seven innings very often last year,” Taos coach April Gallegos says. “I see a whole different story with these girls.”