By Dave Wagner
After three consecutive trips to regional competition, the Portales High softball team has some shoes to fill this season.
Portales graduated its pitcher (Kassandra Richards), catcher (Ashley Flores), shortstop (Kelly Parkey), center fielder (Erica Feliciano) and right fielder (Carissa Martinez) after going 12-12 (8-4 District 4-3A) last season. Richards pitched for the Lady Rams for four seasons.
But sixth-year coach Robbie Crowley, the only coach in the history of the program, said there’s enough talent on hand to still be competitive.
“We’re going to be young; we only have one senior (third baseman Adriana Romero),” she said. “We have a lot of spots to fill, but I think we have the kids to fill them.”
Sophomores Shareesa Nusser and Sasha Parker have moved up from the junior varsity and will try to pick up Richards’ slack in the circle. Nusser will also play somewhere — Crowley’s not sure just where — when she isn’t pitching.
“We’re going to be young,” Crowley said. “We have a lot to do. A lot depends on Sasha and Shareesa, but they’re both coming along.
“It’s nice to have two pitchers.”
Romero, who has played since eighth grade, said people will have to step up to make up for the graduation losses.
“It was hard losing those girls, but I don’t think we’re at a complete loss at all,” she said. “I feel we have some good talent and some good girls coming up. If we work hard, I think we can take this program a long way.”
Junior Sara Silva, the Lady Rams’ left fielder last year, will step in for Flores behind the plate this season, backed up by sophomore Jessica Adkins. Joining Romero on the infield will be junior Rebekah Gonzales at second, sophomore Sabrina Villanueva at short and junior Ashleah Richards at first base.
Gonzales and Richards are still participating in basketball until next week, meaning the team will have to shuffle some players around for Saturday’s season-opening Lady Wildcat Invitational at Clovis.
In the outfield are expected to be sophomore Danielle Vasquez in left, junior Santana Brito in center and any of several candidates in right, including Nusser and Adkins.
Romero said she’d like to see the team make the big jump to state competition.
“It’d be nice,” she said. “We’ve made it to regionals the past three years. It’d be nice to get there to get a feel of state competition.
“I’m ready to see how this year turns out. I feel we have some good girls in this program.”
St. Michael’s is not in the district this year, leaving PHS, Lovington and Ruidoso. Lovington won the district title last year, but Crowley said the Lady Wildcats graduated their top pitcher.
“I’d have to say right now that Ruidoso, with the pitching experience they’ve got, would be the favorite,” she said.
5 — at Clovis tournament (vs. Hobbs, 9:30 a.m., and vs. Dimmitt, Texas, 11 a.m., in pool play; final-round game TBA at 2, 4 or 6 p.m.); 18 — Roswell (2), 4 p.m.; 18 — at Eunice (2), 2 p.m.; 21 — Dexter (2), 3:30 p.m.; 24-26 — at Dexter tournament, TBA; 29 — Loving (2), 3 p.m.
1-2 — at Artesia tournament, TBA; 9 — District 4-3A pre-district tournament at Portales, TBA; 12 — Ruidoso (2), 3 p.m.-x; 19 — Lovington (2), 4 p.m.-x; 28 — at Ruidoso (2), 3 p.m.-x; 30 — at Lovington (2), 11 a.m.-x.
x-Denotes District 4-3A doubleheaders.