Edinburg Vela senior Naomi Reyes is The Monitor’s All-Area Softball Pitcher of the Year.
EDINBURG — Before the 2018 season, Edinburg Vela coach Jon Maples was frank with starting pitcher Naomi Reyes. Reyes would be called on to pitch. A lot.
During her junior year last season, Reyes went 6-1 with a tidy 1.47 ERA, 141 strikeouts and 28 walks in 100 1/3 innings. But the intense and increased workload during her senior year would be more than she had ever experienced in her career.
“I had to pitch more, but I didn’t get tired very often,” Reyes said. “I knew I had to stay conditioned. As soon as I was done pitching, I’d get ice and get treatment the next day. My arm didn’t get tired, but the rest of me got tired whenever we played a lot of games during tournaments or the Weslaco (High) series. Whenever I was tired, I told my defense to be careful, because I was going to try to get batters out by forcing groundouts instead of strikeouts.”
Reyes was the workhorse the SaberCats needed and then some, going 20-3 with a 1.51 earned run average in 32 appearances. She struck out 260, walked 28 (again) in 171 2/3 innings and was a big reason for Edinburg Vela’s first fourth-round appearance in school history. Reyes is The Monitor’s All-Area Pitcher of the Year.
“It’s humbling to end my career here with this award,” Reyes said. “I had a decent year last year, but I didn’t want to let the team down. Last year, we were one and done, but I told the girls that we need to win big this year. I needed to step it up with my pitching, my teammates needed to step it up offensively, and it all worked out for us. I’ve wanted this award for a very long time.”
Reyes’ pitching numbers this season would not have been possible without an addition to her pitching arsenal.
“I changed my whole look by adding another pitch,” Reyes said. “(Edinburg Vela assistant) Coach (Joe) Ortiz taught me how to throw a change-up. I used to only throw for speed and throw it up in the zone. Opponents knew that they had to stay back in the batter’s box and keep their hands to try and hit what I threw. The change-up had some drop to it, so it would be up in the zone and then drop down. That helped me a lot, and it also forced a lot of ground balls for my defense.”
After her instrumental role in Vela’s record-breaking year, Reyes will move on from the SaberCats to become a scholarship pitcher for Texas Southern this fall.
“What I’ll always remember about her is when she’d tell us, ‘Coach, I want the ball,’” Maples said. “She wanted to be in big moments and end her senior year on her terms. She matured a lot. I think she’s ready for Division I softball.”