An improved 2019 spring season for the Pojoaque Valley High School softball team paid dividends for its coach and two senior players.
Not to mention their former head coach of 10 years.
Not only did seniors Rianna Arellano and Hallie Vigil get the nod to play for the Large-School Northeast All-Star team during the New Mexico High School Coaches Association’s 2019 All-Star softball series, but former Elkettes’ head coach Ricky DeHerrera was called upon to fill a coaching void for the Large-School Northwest; taking DeHerrera out of retirement for a few busy, hectic days at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.
After several coaches declined to coach the team, NMHSCA Executive Director Buster Mabrey came calling to a familiar name in DeHerrera to fill the void.
“It’s all for the kids and that’s why I did it,” DeHerrera said on Monday after the Northwest’s first game of the series against the Southwest. “Plus, I’m off in the summers, so that was a huge key.”
Where he turned next to help complete his staff was none other than current Pojoaque head coach Chris Ortiz — who spent nine seasons under DeHerrera as the junior varsity coach — and Farmington High School assistant coach John Mason, who helped coach Bloomfield High School to four consecutive Class 3A state championships from 2007 to 2010.
The big catch about the whole situation? With DeHerrera and Ortiz coaching the Northwest, it set up a matchup Tuesday (the results were not available by press time) against the two Elkette players awarded all-star selections.
“They told us they still loved us,” Vigil said laughing after the Northeast’s opening game against the Southeast on Monday when talking about facing off against both coaches.
“We want to beat them bad and we’re going to beat them,” Arellano added.
More importantly for the two Pojoaque seniors was the adrenaline and excitement that came along with just being honored and selected for the series — which gives each all-star team three games to play over Monday and Tuesday, along with a home run derby added into the mix.
“We thought it was all over for us after the first round of state,” Arellano said. “It’s kind of unreal: I’d say unbelievable.”
The two took the field Monday with rival and District 2-4A Player of the Year in Haley Ortega from Española Valley High School (Arellano started at third base and Ortega started at center field), and after a positive start by scoring three runs in the first inning, the Northeast lost by a final score of 13-3 in five frames. The Southeast was surged by an eight-run third inning.
“It was really kind of neat to coach 12 of the best Southeast ball players in new Mexico and it was kind of a blessing in disguise,” Southeast head coach Art Sandoval from Roswell High School said. “Really, it’s kind of easy to coach because they’re all such great talents.”
While Sandoval and the Southeast enjoyed their victory, on the adjacent field behind them, DeHerrera, Ortiz and the Northwest had a tough task of going up against Southwest pitcher Kamryan Trujillo from Silver High School. The four-time state champion from the Lady Fighting Colts held DeHerrera’s club scoreless until the sixth inning, and despite the Northwest’s best comeback effort in the seventh, the Southwest held on for a 5-2 victory.
Trujillo and Silver ousted the Elkettes in the opening play-in game of this past season’s state tournament before their streak of eight consecutive state championships was broken by Artesia High School in the championship game.
“We did alright and we got some hits, but that’s a D1 pitcher there,” DeHerrera said. “She helped Silver win all those state championships (2014-2018 with Trujillo). They had some bad luck this year because Artesia moved down. Artesia should have been 5A. Cutout Artesia there, and she wins it all again.”