WESLACO — Edinburg High pitcher Amber Reyes started working with first-year EHS coach Ramon Arciba months before the 2017 softball season. Midway through the 2016 season, Reyes, then her team’s No. 2 starting pitcher, began receiving independent instruction with Arciba, who helped propel her to a 9-2 record and a 0.77 earned run average.
When she learned Arciba was going to be EHS’ newest coach, Reyes had every reason to think greatness was on the way.
“It excited me, because I knew what he was looking for in terms of work ethic and the way he wanted things done,” Reyes said. “Coach Arciba changed everything. I knew we’d be better, work harder than how we did and also have the mindset to go farther than where we had gone. We didn’t get to it this year, but we still had a great season.”
Before the year began, Arciba met with Reyes and was brutally honest with his junior pitcher: her workload was going to be heavy.
“We were going to work more in the offseason with her location and spin on her pitches as well as her mental toughness, which was my main focus,” Arciba said. “She did a tremendous job considering she was the No. 2 and sometimes No. 3 pitcher on the team a year ago. For her to come in and be our clear No. 1 was great to watch.”
Reyes stepped into the role as EHS’ top starter in 2017, going 15-1 with a 0.64 earned run average. She struck out 99 batters, walked 29 and allowed only eight earned runs over 87 innings. She improved at the plate, as well, hitting .518 with 58 hits, seven doubles, three home runs and 16 runs batted in while scoring 55 runs. Reyes’ prolific production earned her The Monitor’s All-Area Player of the Year award.
“When I heard I won Player of the Year, it caught me off guard,” Reyes said. “I knew I had a good season, but I didn’t expect to win this. (The numbers) almost don’t even click to me, because I’m out there to just play. I love the game. I hope I do well whenever I step out on the field, but hearing those numbers, I felt like I made my family proud.”
Reyes’ batting average jumped from .462 in 2016 to .518 in 2017.
“The credit for that goes to my dad,” Reyes said. “He would work with me after practices and sometimes before games. We went to the cages and work and work. Even if we did that, we stayed at the cages until whatever problem I had was corrected. My pitching improvement came from Coach Arciba, but hitting was more my dad, because he pushed me to never be satisfied and be better at the plate.”
“Amber bought into the program’s philosophy and expectations we put on her right off the bat,” Arciba said. “She was a great table setter for us as our leadoff hitter. Seeing the ball was another major emphasis in order for her to improve as a slap hitter. Being able to recognize that pitch early and adjusting how she was planning to approach it. I gave her the green light most of the time. If she saw a first baseman or third baseman draw in, I told her to hit it as hard as she can. If they are playing back, drag bunt it if you can. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.”
Edinburg High raced to the Valley’s best regular season with a 25-2 record and won the District 31-6A championship with a 14-0 league record before falling to Weslaco High in the UIL 6A regional quarterfinal round. Wins via run rule were frequent. The bats came alive, and the arms stifled opponents left and right.
“I love those girls,” Reyes said. “What I’ll remember most was that we came closer together and played harder than we ever had before since I’ve been there. Records were broken. We had a 22-game winning streak. We’ve played with each other our entire lives, and they were the best teammates I could have ever had. I can’t thank them any more for being there for me on and off the field.”