WESLACO — Things could have worked out a lot differently for Weslaco High coach Mario Rodriguez.

A Weslaco High alumnus himself, Rodriguez attended the University of Texas-Pan American, graduating with a major in kinesiology and a minor in history. He had the full intention of someday becoming a head basketball coach. While he was working as an assistant on the girls basketball and softball teams, the head coaches of both teams stepped down, putting Rodriguez in a somewhat precarious position.

“I applied for both jobs,” Rodriguez said. “When I applied for a head basketball coach, they’d ask you if you had any head coaching experience. I, of course, didn’t. So I applied for the softball job, and I was fortunate enough to get it.”

After 10 years, one UIL 6A state semifinal appearance in 2016 and a UIL 6A regional semifinal placing this year, Rodriguez has been named The Monitor’s 2017 All-Area Softball Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.

“I’m honored and humbled, because there are a lot of good softball coaches throughout the Valley,” Rodriguez said. “To be selected again is exciting.”

Rodriguez acknowledged how difficult it was early in the year to follow up the program’s historic 2016 season.

“I saw that we were pressing early on, trying to make things happen,” Rodriguez said. “Along the way, I think we lost sight of what helped us to succeed, and that was to have fun. After we lost a game in the Mission tournament (early in the season), we had a talk afterwards. Being undefeated was off the table, so let’s relax and go back to what we used to do. Once we were starting to do that, we went on a bit of a roll.”

Following a home loss to San Benito on March 21, Weslaco High won 14 games in a row, capturing the District 32-6A championship outright. The Lady Panthers would go on to sweep their way through the bi-district, area and regional quarterfinals rounds before dropping the first two in their regional semifinal series to New Braunfels Canyon.

One motivator for Rodriguez’s softball coaching career is the opportunity to someday coach his daughter, 11-year-old Mia Renae, at the high school level.

“(Mia Renae) was born the year I started coaching,” Rodriguez said. “She’s very involved in the sport. She comes to all of our games and has a pretty good softball IQ. Hopefully, I can get a chance to coach her.”