Valley Morning Star unveils 2018 All-STAR softball team

Lady Hounds’ Gonzalez caps career with MVP honors

Leadership, mental toughness and the ability to make a team better on and off the field are characteristics that define a Most Valuable Player.

These traits, however, are just a few that describe San Benito’s Joanna Gonzalez, who put a bow on what was a stellar four-year career in a Lady Hounds uniform.

Gonzalez was one of the most feared batters in the Valley and provided a steady hand behind the plate. She was the heart and soul of the Lady Hounds and helped lead the team to a district title and a trip to the Sweet 16.

Thanks to her valiant efforts, she was named this year’s Valley Morning Star All-STAR MVP.

Q: Now that the dust has settled and you’re a graduate, how special was your senior season?

Joanna: For being part of the Lady Hounds softball program for four years, I consider myself lucky. This season was definitely one to remember. I mean you only get one last year and you have to make the most of it. Even though it ended earlier than we expected, it was a heck of a ride playing one last season with my teammates. I’ve made so many memories and learned lessons that I will be able to take along with me through not only softball but life as well.

Q: You were one of the most feared hitters in the district. What’s your approach at the plate?

Joanna: I tried not to overthink at the plate, so I would usually go up with the mindset that I just needed make strong contact with the ball and put it in play. I had to make them (the other team) work for it and that, to me, is what makes the game exciting.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that readers might not know?

Joanna: I would pray to the big man upstairs for every game that we finished playing because that meant we had another game to go out on the field and play once again.

Q: What are your plans for the summer?

Joanna: Well, this week coming up I plan to go on a trip to Colorado. Then, once I get back home, I have to start working even harder to get ready for summer ball and college ball. Then, hopefully along the way, I get to go on a mini-vacation with my family.

Q: What does winning the MVP award mean to you?

Joanna: Winning the award is a great accomplishment because I’m finishing things off with it. It shows me that every time I played I left everything I had on that field and it showed regardless if it was a good or bad game.


Lady Hawks’ De La Fuente grabs Pitcher of the Year honors

The Harlingen South Lady Hawks entered the 2018 softball season with high expectations and certainly had another successful season by reaching the third round of the postseason.

Senior pitcher Kaitlynn De La Fuente entered the year as the team’s No. 2 pitcher and starting center fielder. However, after fellow senior pitcher Daisy Gallegos went down with an injury, De La Fuente stepped in the circle and became the club’s ace.

Through 31 games, De La Fuente went 23-4 with 133 innings pitched and whiffed 144 batters to just 35 walks, and finished with a dazzling 1.84 ERA.

De La Fuente’s masterful season in the circle earned her the Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR Pitcher of the Year.

Q: Talk about the grind of facing tough lineups each and every week?

Kaitlynn: Obviously it was always very nerve racking, but each week I had my coach there to guide me through what the lineups were going to look like. Coach (Elias) Martinez also provided me with film and it helped me know what to expect, and also helped me get mentally ready for the game. Confidence and cockiness played a huge part in playing my game. If I had it in my head that I was going to pitch a good game no matter what, I knew I was going to pitch a good game.

Q: Who was the toughest hitter you faced and why?

Kaitlynn: The toughest hitter I faced would definitely be San Benito’s Joanna Gonzalez. I’ve played with her before outside of high school ball and she has always been a big hitter. I know what she’s capable of doing and she just has such a good eye for the ball, and is always very powerful with her at-bats.

Q: What was the best memory from your time in a Lady Hawks uniform?

Kaitlynn: Just the overall experience of going undefeated in the first round of district play is a memory that I won’t ever forget. Being able to beat the top teams like San Benito, Weslaco and knowing that my pitching played a big role in those wins is something I’m very proud of doing.

Q: What is the best part of being a pitcher?

Kaitlynn: The best part of being a pitcher is being able to carry your team to victory when you’re in the bottom of the seventh and being able to strike out that last batter in a shutout. The feeling of confidence is overwhelming and only builds up to keep you going in the next games.

Q: What does it mean to you to be named Pitcher of the Year? Kaitlynn: It is such an honor to receive this award. It just goes to show that my hard work and the hard work of my coaches like Coach Martinez, Garza and Rigelsky, as well as my outside pitching coach Alex Anzaldua proved to be a driving force in how I play the game. I also would like to thank my travel ball coaches Lino and Albert Luna. I wouldn’t be as good as I am if it wasn’t for the coaching staff behind me and I only have them to thank for helping me revive this award. Throughout most of the season I was told that I was too cocky when talking about how I could play the game, but receiving this award also proves to those that doubted me that I can walk it how I talk it.


Torris has breakout year for Lady Cats

The Rio Hondo Lady Bobcats entered the 2018 softball season unsure of who would be the next up-and-coming star.

They had five seasoned veterans, but knew the young crop of talent would need to grow up quickly.

One of those youngsters was freshman Abbie Torris, a left-handed slugger who immediately stepped in and swung a hot bat throughout the season.

This past season she laced in 25 doubles, drove in 41 runs and batted .640. She also shined in the outfield where she played left field and finished with a .989 fielding percentage.

For her efforts, Torris was named this year’s Valley Morning Star All-STAR Newcomer of the Year.

Q: Now that you have a full year of varsity experience under your belt, what are some things you learned?

Abbie: I learned not to be so nervous and anxious come game time. I learned to always take a deep breath and just relax and have fun.

Q: What was the defining moment for you this season?

Abbie: Having the girls on my team cheering me on from the dugout the first time that I hit the ball and got on base.

Q: Over the summer what are some goals you set as far as on the field goes?

Abbie: I am going to keep working on my batting to improve my numbers, and continue training to get stronger and faster which will help me be a better catcher come next season.

Q: You are now a part of a rich softball tradition at Rio Hondo. What is that like?

Abbie: It feels amazing to be a part of such a great team and tradition. This is more like a sisterhood; I just loved every moment of it.

Q: What does it mean to you to be named Newcomer of the Year?

Abbie: After being named VMS Player of the Week a couple months ago, I set my sights on being Newcomer of the Year. And now that I’m here, it feels so unreal and I’m very excited to have received the honor. But I couldn’t have done this alone; I have great a team, coaches and family that always support me. I can’t wait to see what next season will bring. It can’t get here soon enough!


Lyford’s Rojas named best offensive player

As a freshman, Lyford’s Jerrica Rojas took the District 32-3A by storm. Fast-forward a year and she hasn’t looked back.

Rojas helped guide the Lady Bulldogs to a second straight undefeated league season and shined both in the circle and at the plate.

The sophomore led the club in hits (47), homers (5), RBIs (48) and at the plate with a .595 average.

Rojas’s strong offensive year landed her this year’s Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR Offensive Player of the Year.

Q: From your freshman year to now, what are some things you improved on?

Jerrica: My leadership role as a teammate. As a freshman I didn’t say much, but this year was different. Now that it will be in my third year playing, I’m really going to push my teammates and try to go deep in the playoffs.

Q: What are your goals this summer?

Jerrica: I am always trying to set goals for myself and this summer will be no different. I will keep working hard on my offensive game and set a higher standard. Also, I will push my teammates to be better as well. I know that my team will be looking at me to do my part in the circle defensively so that will also be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. But a truly important task I have this summer is to perform well at the college showcases I will be attending over the summer because I would really like the opportunity to play ball at the next level.

Q: You bat in the middle of the order. What is the best part about that?

Jerrica: The best part of hitting in the middle of the lineup is that my teammates do a great job of allowing me to study the pitcher and relay a lot of information before I get my at-bat, so for me to be recognized as Offensive Player of the Year has a lot to do with my teammates and everyone that has helped me along the way.

Q: What is your approach at the plate?

Jerrica: Well, really, my at-bat starts when I’m on deck. While on deck I pay attention to where my base runners are at and if I have a runner in scoring position, then I try hitting behind the runner so that they’d be able to make it to the next base easier. But as soon as I get in the box, I clear my head and it’s just me and the ball making good solid contact.

Q: What does being named Offensive Player of the Year mean to you?

Jerrica: I feel honored because I put a lot of time and effort into this sport that I love, and all my hard work is slowly paying off and from now on I’m just going to work harder for myself and my team.


Rio Hondo’s Alvarado tabbed top defender

Behind every great pitcher there is usually a great catcher. A defensive specialist that has a mind for the game and can call, direct and foresee what will happen on the field.

Four-year letterman Abbie Alvarado did it all for the Rio Hondo Lady Cats and was the catalyst behind the plate.

Alvarado batted .640 with 40 RBIs while at the dish she called the games with mastery and finished the season with a .962 fielding percentage.

For her defensive efforts Alvarado was named this year’s Valley Morning Star All-STAR Defensive Player of the Year.

Q: Tell us something we probably don’t know about you?

ABBIE: I love to watch movies of any genre.

Q: What is the toughest part of playing catcher?

ABBIE: Definitely the squatting and the toll it takes on my legs.

Q: Over your last four years, what was your best memory?

ABBIE: My favorite memory has to be this year when we came back to beat Divine (in the playoffs). We scored nine amazing runs together as team, and I’ll never forget it and neither will our fans and families.

Q: What does being a part of a district title five-peat and leaving a winning tradition behind mean to you?

ABBIE: It means everything to me to have been a part of this team and the tradition we made. It was through hard work, dedication and teamwork.

Q: What does winning Defensive Player of the Year mean to you?

ABBIE: It means a lot to me and my family. It means that all my hard work over the years has paid off. I was playing for my team every play and I wasn’t expecting to receive this award, but I am honored and blessed to have won it.


First Team

Pitcher: Rio Hondo Annie Alvarado

First Base: Harlingen South Alyssa Ledesma

Second Base: Harlingen South Kelsey Rivera

Shortstop: Harlingen South Krystal Gonzales

Third Base: San Benito Aaliyah Rangel

Catcher: Harlingen South Kytana Muniz

Right Field: San Benito Meagan Ybarra

Center Field: San Benito Audrey Huerta

Left Field: San Benito Deztiny Hernandez

Second Team

Pitchers: Carla Arellano, HHS; Evelyn Ortiz, LYF; Nana Carrizales, SB

Catchers: Emily Garcia, HHS; Jessica Cruz, LYF

Infield: Caitlyn Hejl, HHSS; Zoe Rosas, HHS; Karla Medina, LYF; Kelsey Pizarro, RH; Serena Rodriguez, LYF

Outfield: Kayla Rogers, HHSS; Melba Rodriguez, HHSS; Sydney Bray, LYF; Cheyenne Rodriguez, SR; Natasha Cannales, HHSS