In his third season as Española Valley baseball coach, Anthony Alarid believes this year the Sundevils can accomplish something never before done in school history.
“I don’t know that (Española Valley) has ever won a district title,” Alarid said. “I think we can do it this year.”
Although their scheduled doubleheader against Santa Fe High School March 20 was cancelled due to snowy weather, the Sundevils are off to a good start with a 5-2 record. Their most recent victory was a 9-3 defeat of West Las Vegas March 16 in Las Vegas.
The Sundevils advanced last season to the Class AAAA state baseball tournament for the first time in school history. The 14th-seeded Sundevils were eliminated in the opening round 11-0 by the third-seeded Farmington Scorpions. Despite losing senior third baseman Daniel Archuleta and pitcher James Flores to graduation, the Sundevils return a solid core of veterans who give Alarid an optimistic outlook for the upcoming season.
“We’ve been showing improvement every year (since he became coach),” Alarid said. “This year we have a solid team.”
Leadoff hitter and left fielder junior Ryan Fresquez will once again spark the offense with his speed and ability to get on base. Senior Mario Archuleta bats second in the order and plays first base. The left-handed hitter is a good bunter. Junior center fielder Ricky Gonzalez has power and bats third. Senior shortstop and pitcher Sean Salazar bats cleanup and makes contact. Sophomore Joaquin Schoepner plays shortstop when he’s not on the mound pitching and bats fifth.
Senior Estevan Trujillo has been hitting sixth and playing right field. Sophomores Ross Duran and Corey Atencio bat seventh and eighth, respectively. Duran plays third base and Atencio is the catcher. Junior Greg Serna bats ninth and plays second base.
“One good thing that I see us doing this year that we weren’t doing last year is getting hits with runners on base,” Alarid said. “So far, we haven’t been shut out.”
Freshman Manny Chavez will play first base when Archuleta takes a turn on the pitching mound. Chavez will also be the designated hitter in certain situations.
“He has a good eye for the ball,” Alarid said.
Luis Acosta, Hector Chavarria, Jesus Chavez and Daniel Velasquez are other members of the team. Ariel Flores and Ryan Martinez just joined the team and are looking for playing time.
The pitching rotation includes Schoepner, Salazar and Gonzales. Archuleta is the lone left-handed hurler for the Sundevils and will be used in relief, as will Duran.
“They’ve all had good games this year, but they’ve also struggled,” Alarid said. “The key to us winning ball games will be getting ahead early in the count so we can keep our pitch count down.”
Defensively, the Sundevils have looked okay at times and at other times not.
“We haven’t been consistent,” Alarid said. “Against Silver, we lost 11-1 (March 11) and the score should have been more like 2-1. We had a lot of errors.”
The Sundevils have had to practice a lot inside because of the weather this winter.
“This year it seems like it’s been colder than the past couple of years,” Alarid said. “We started practice Feb. 2, but we’ve primarily been in the gym.”
Española plays its home opener Saturday, hosting Belen in a doubleheader. The Sundevils start play in District 2AAAA against Capital March 31 in Santa Fe. Alarid considers Los Alamos and Bernalillo the teams to beat in District 2AAAA, but this may be the Sundevils year.
“I have confidence in this group,” he said. “They can accomplish something that hasn’t been done.”