March 30, 2022

By Greg Selber

Click here for select game photos

On yet another blustery evening in the Valley, the clouds were visibly on the move Tuesday, cruising briskly across an orange-purple sky as the sun slowly retired. Some looked like fish, or fragments of alligators, others like birds or even quasi-dragons, and as the strong southwest breeze pushed them along, the girls got going for a special ball game.

It was Arciba against Arciba, as EHS boss Ramon Arciba took his Lady Bobcats out east to battle his daughter’s Lady Jags. Neither team is burning up the league right now, but it didn’t really matter, in a way. This was the pupil against the master, a Family Feud in softball, and each nine was up for the challenge, partly on behalf of their mentors.

Truly, the Lady ‘Cats (now 4-6) are in better position to sneak into the playoff hunt, though 2022 has been a tough one for city squads as heading into the week’s action, none of the four schools were in the top 4 in District 31-6A, North barely outside the pack looking in. For Econ, the chance to pick up a third league success had extra meaning given the circumstances, and Arciba the Younger was hoping for a little magic, the kind that saw her club carve out a comeback win against Vela earlier in the schedule, the first time the Lady Jags had ever topped the Lady SaberCats in softball.

“Yeah, that was great,” smiled Arciba as the first pitch neared Tuesday. “We just kept fighting, we overcame being behind several times, and hit three home runs, that was just a great game … over there, too.”

One of the kids who went yard in the 16-13 victory March 16 would do so again against EHS, but by the time freshman Evelyn Cano launched a high drive over the wall in left-center field, the Lady Jags had fallen behind, 9-0. EHS, sending 13 batters to the plate in its first at-bat, piled it on with solid base hits up the middle and was aided by a passed ball, a wild pitch, and three stolen bases.

With senior lefty Alynna Garza on her way to a sharp 2-hitter on the mound, that explosion was all the Red and Blue would need to subdue the Orange, 18-2. The dragon for Econ was something that has plagued the young roster this season, the One Big Inning. The Lady Jags have held serve in multiple matches into the middle innings so far, only to fall apart amid a rash of errors and mistakes down the stretch.

Now at 2-8 as the second half of 31-6A play commences in earnest, Econ has a bunch of precocious youngsters on board, so Arciba hopes the future will be more rewarding.

“EHS is struggling a little, and we have nothing to lose,” she had said in pregame, adding that beating her dad at the game he taught her for so many years would be, well, pretty OK with her.

Before they began the Family Feud, Ramon turned from the third base coaching box and said, “Good Luck, mama,” to his daughter, bringing back memories of the years when he cheered and cajoled her on from behind the home plate fence, this, when Sam was an ace EHS pitcher.

As it turned out, her Lady Jags recovered from the 9-run first inning disaster to make a game of it for a while, as reliever Adelaida Benavidez, sister of former baseball standout Manny Benavidez, pitched her way into the fifth and did fairly well, getting the Lady Bobcats 1-2-3 in the second and fourth before leaving in the fifth after taking a wicked shot on her hip off the bat of EHS mega-stud Sam Saenz.

And any story about Lady ‘Cat softball this season would of course include Saenz, who came into the night hitting over .700 and defied the mathematical odds by going a cool 4 for 4 with 5 RBI. She also made some excellent stops at first base and the only down moment came after a breakneck slide into third base early on, on which Saenz appeared to be injured, thankfully not.

Besides the home run from Cano, Econ plated a tally in the third when sophomore Arianna Reyna delivered a run-scoring single to drive in freshman Aissa Garcia.  An inning prior, it could have been more scoring, but a hard shot by third baseman Bri Gonzalez went just foul. Had she reached, she would have scored on the home run but that’s the way the luck went on Tuesday.

EHS did something its coach has been asking for all season, and that’s get timely hits with runners in scoring position. In the first frame of fireworks, Saenz shot a two-run single to center on a 3-2 pitch and then soph Emily Rangel was a two-strike hitter, as they chant, with a base hit scoring Saenz. After Benavidez recorded a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch, senior Shelby Celedon (2 for 3 with three runs) lashed a liner for an RBI; later, in the third, the muscular center fielder mashed a triple to center field.

Garza was airtight on the hill for the most part and on offense she contributed three runs and three RBI on two hits, while second hitter Arianna Guerra dashed across the dish three times; the Lady ‘Cats placed this one to bed with six runs in the fifth, putting the ball in play as their manager wanted. They are at home against Mission Friday and then play at Vela Tuesday.

For the Lady Jags, sophomore leadoff hitter Angelinne De Hoyos-Aguirre continued to impress with her all-around skill set, getting barely nipped at first twice on two quality bunt attempts and showing a strong arm on a few throws from behind the plate. Indeed, Arciba the Younger has a good core of youth, and several will end up being four-year starters before they’re done. Infielder Kate Martinez is a sophomore and shows potential along with the members of the strong 9th-grade group. Others have been part of the program for a while, such as steady infielder Cassie Vega-Frias, while seniors Milagros Gonzalez (best name in the district) and Caro Ortiz have pitched in as well.

Late in the evening, the die already cast, the Arcibas gave a role model demonstration of what teamwork is all about.

After the liner by Saenz crashed into Benavidez in the circle, father and daughter raced into action with the trainers; at one point Ramon had the Lady Jag hurler by one arm, Sam the other, helping that tough little cookie into the dugout. Though both clubs are fighting for survival in the league race, their coaches came together instinctively to exhibit the sort of leadership one would expect from such storied sporting names in town. Family ties.

Do as I say, and as it turns out, as I do, too.

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