Heading the Pojoaque Valley High School softball team this season is a new name, but he’s also a familiar face.
After nine seasons as an assistant and coaching junior varsity at the school, Chris Ortiz will have his first crack at running the program this year.
He spent those nine seasons under former head coach Ricky DeHerrera, who retired at the end of last season after coaching the Elkettes since 2009 and being a part of the coaching staff since 2002, going all the way back to the days of co-head coaches Billy Trujillo and Janice Aguilar-Jaramillo.
So far this season, the Elkettes (1-5) have had a bit of a rough go to open things up, but Ortiz has still seen what he wants out his team through the early stages.
“It’s just about having confidence in yourself and having fun,” Ortiz said. “That’s what it is and if we just come out perform, do our best and have fun. This group is a good group and they work hard: I’ll go to battle with them anywhere.”
In Pojoaque’s five losses, the team has been outscored by an average of five runs, not too bad considering they have a pair of games lost by three and another by a single run to Capital High School on March 19.
The Elkettes battled in three games in three days at the 30th annual St. Michael’s Roseanne Noedel Memorial Tournament March 21-23, but fell short in all three contests.
After an opening round 11-8 loss to host St. Michael’s, Pojoaque was clipped 8-5 by district rival Española Valley High School on day two and their tournament ended with another bout with Capital, being the third matchup of the season between the teams.
The Lady Jaguars (3-4) improved to 3-0 against the Elkettes, powering their way to a 13-5 win that ended after the fifth inning due to the tournament’s eight-run mercy rule.
Capital was carried by some big shots that helped them separate in the game, and none bigger was a two-run home run by Angelica Angel in the fourth inning to push the Lady Jaguars’ lead to 7-3.
Angel’s at-bat followed Becca Sorensen’s RBI triple and Capital added three more runs to grab a 10-3 advantage before the inning finally came to an end, but it wasn’t before Sorenson added a solo shot of her own that carried over the left-center wall.
“This was a lot better compared to the last two games,” Capital head coach Sig Rivera said. “What’s nice is the it’s the young girls who are (coming through). That tall one (Sorenson), she’s just a sophomore. So, we hit the ball good finally and I think we got the bats, rattled them and woke them up and it’s about time.”
Pojoaque exerted a lot of energy trying to dig deep out of a 4-0 hole built by Capital through the first three innings. The Elkettes finally answered with three runs in the bottom of the third behind a two-run RBI triple by Ayanna Aguirre with two outs. Michaela Martinez followed suit in the next at-bat, slicing a liner past second base to record an RBI and score Aguirre.
Capital just happened to have their answer in the fourth inning with those big shots and after Pojoaque went scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, the Lady Jaguars added three more runs before the game ended early in the fifth.
“We struggled a little bit at the top of our lineup and they didn’t come through like I thought they would,” Ortiz said. “Our middle of our lineup came up strong for us, the bottom struggled a little bit, but we did alright.”
Aguirre was Pojoaque’s most consistent player over the course of the tournament and her effort earned her a spot on the all-tournament team. She hit two triples and a double against Capital to account for three total runs batted in.
“My lefty, she has a great stick,” Ortiz said about Aguirre. “She has a lot of power and she’s a good hitter, but she’s also a great fielder as you can see too. She’s really aggressive and that’s what I like about her. Hopefully some of that can spread on to some of these other girls.”
Ortiz said there’s still plenty of time for that aggression and precision to spread out and turn things around.
“I told the girls that we were gonna come out here and find ourselves,” he said. “When the season really comes in for us around districts, that’s when we’re gonna tone in and really find out (what’s going to happen), It’ll be where the rubber meets the road, that’s for sure.”