MISSION — Despite an interrupted regular season, canceled postseason and ongoing difficulties affecting high school athletics in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, a pair of local high school softball coaches found a way to honor the most outstanding seniors on the diamond from across the Rio Grande Valley.
Sharyland High head coach Paul Cruz and Mercedes head coach Kristy Leal, two of South Texas’ top coaches at the 5A level, teamed up with other coaches throughout the region to assemble 2020 East and West Valley All-Star teams.
For Cruz and Leal, the all-star rosters were a way to recognize the area seniors who sacrificed their final season of high school eligibility as well as their contributions to the Valley softball community over the past four years.
“We both agreed to come up with a list of young ladies so we can give them recognition, especially with schools now shutting down their strength and conditioning programs – schools are not allowing teams to use their facilities,” said Cruz, who picked up his 400th career win with the Rattlers earlier this season.
“It’s the least we could do,” said Leal, who helped lead an explosive Mercedes team that held a +52 run differential when the season was interrupted in March. “We look forward to the all-star game every summer.”
The Valley softball coaches identified 82 total players — 48 from the West Valley and 34 from the East Valley — representing 38 different local schools from Class 6A to 3A that they tabbed as 2020 all-stars from a talented crop of senior softball stars.
The La Joya High Coyotes and McAllen Rowe Warriors of District 30-6A led all schools with five total selections each. Harlingen South led all East Valley schools with four players selected, which tied La Joya Palmview, PSJA High and Sharyland High with four all-stars apiece.
Edinburg High, Edinburg Vela, La Feria, Lyford, Mercedes, PSJA North, Raymondville and Weslaco East each had three all-star picks.
Several seniors from across the RGV signed to play collegiately, as well.
Mission Veterans outfielder Stephanie Torres signed with Dodge City Community College in Kansas after hitting .444 for the Patriots this year.
Vela outfielder and former Edinburg High and Flour Bluff standout Katy Truitt committed to in-state D1 powerhouse North Texas after setting Edinburg’s single-season city home run record.
Her teammate first baseman and right fielder Deandra Longoria, a three-year letterman and career .360 hitter, signed with Howard Payne softball, while fellow SaberCat Kameryn Casares, a four-year starter and one of the RGV’s slickest defensive second basemen, signed with startup program Texas A&M-San Antonio.
Casares will be joined in the Jaguars program by PSJA High shortstop Korrie Cantu, a speedy power hitter with 56 steals and a 1.248 OPS over a four-year high school career, after she also committed to being part of Texas A&M-San Antonio’s first recruiting class.
Hidalgo senior Carolina Carbajal, a slugging shortstop and third baseman, also signed with Laredo’s Texas A&M-International after leading the Pirates softball program at the plate with a career .442 batting average and 1.316 OPS.
Then among many others, there’s Mercedes multi-sport star Mika Vento, who shined for the Tigers in basketball, softball and volleyball. On the diamond, she combined with teammate Caitlyn Acosta, also an 2020 East Valley All-Star, to throw a perfect game in the circle in Mercedes’ district opener and signed to play softball at Sam Houston State.
It appears unlikely presently that the game itself will be able to be played given the string of school districts throughout the RGV to shut down on-campus summer athletics and other extracurriculars temporarily as coronavirus cases continue to rise in South Texas.
“Sad we (can’t) do it, but we all know it’s for the safety of the kids,” Leal said.
Cruz remains optimistic, however, that despite present difficulties posed by a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases regionally that an all-star game may still be staged eventually.
“We were hoping to get the game in but now with the shutdown of most of the strength and conditioning programs,” that isn’t possible, he said. “Plus, UIL is not allowing us to practice at high school fields, so we are in dormancy right now.”
East Valley All-Stars
BROWNSVILLE HANNA (1): P/1B Diana Guerrero.
BROWNSVILLE LOPEZ (1): 1B Bianca Olguin.
BROWNSVILLE PACE (2): UTIL Lauren Mares; OF Nikki Ramirez.
BROWNSVILLE PORTER (1): 1B Aliah Quiroz.
BROWNSVILLE RIVERA (2): 3B Irma Valdez; 1B Daisy Vasquez.
BROWNSVILLE VETERANS (1): SS Sheng Lee Martinez
DONNA HIGH (1): 3B Ashley Rodrgiuez.
EDCOUCH-ELSA (1): OF Brianna Gonzalez.
HARLINGEN HIGH (1): 2B Zoe Rosas.
HARLINGEN SOUTH (4): CF Christina Arellano; CF Kytana Muniz; RF Kayla Rogers; 2B Kelsey Rivera.
LA FERIA (3): P Abbie Castillo; SS Eneli Garza; P/OF Faith Mckenzie.
LOS FRESNOS (1): SS/CF Reba Reyes.
LYFORD (3): CF Jessica Cruz; P/3B Jerrica Rojas; DP/RF Leilani Salazar.
MERCEDES (3): 1B Caitlyn Acosta; 2B/P Natalie Trevino; P/INF Mika Vento.
PORT ISABEL (1): SS/P Vivi Cantu.
RAYMONDVILLE (3): SS Nikki Dominguez; P/UTIL Aaliyah Munoz; CF Ilanie Zamora.
RIO HONDO (1): P/INF Nayeli Garcia
SAN BENITO (1): 1B/C Karina Cisneros.
WESLACO EAST (3): 1B Laysha Castillo; 3B Rionna Garcia; UTIL Adriana Gonzalez.
West Valley All-Stars
EDINBURG HIGH (3): P/UTIL Secilia Lopez; 1B Bryahne Salinas; SS Valerie Gallardo.
EDINBURG VELA (3): 2B/SS Kameryn Casares; 1B/RF Deandra Longoria; OF Katy Truitt .
HIDALGO (1): SS/3B Carolina Carbajal.
LA JOYA HIGH (5): SS Leslie Ochoa; OF Leezandra Prado; C Jessica Reyna; 3B Ayleene Salinas; 1B Kassandra Villarreal.
LA JOYA JUAREZ-LINCOLN (1): SS/2B Natalie Garcia.
LA JOYA PALMVIEW (4): OF Frida Garza; OF Savannah Gutierrez; P/1B Cassandra Santos; 2B/SS Madalyn Vela.
McALLEN HIGH (1): 3B Bryanna Quintanilla.
McALLEN MEMORIAL (1): P/SS Kayla Dow.
McALLEN ROWE (5): C Ashley Barreiro; OF Laurynn Garcia; P Gabriela Garza; 2B/SS Emily Santos; OF Gabriela Vasquez.
MISSION HIGH (2): OF Alex Ponce; OF Eileen Rodriguez.
MISSION VETERANS (2): OF Stephanie Torres; OF Arielle Quijada.
PSJA HIGH (4): 2B Korrie Cantu; 3B Roxanna Garza; 1B Madelyn Singleterry; SS Vivika Villarreal.
PSJA MEMORIAL (2): 1B Victoria Gonzalez; P/SS Chelsea Salinas.
PSJA NORTH (3): OF Amy Buenrostro; C Giselle Mendoza; 1B Brianna Sandoval.
PSJA SOUTHWEST (2): OF Cynthia Barrera; 1B/3B Jessalyne Garza.
ROMA (1): SS Alexis Trevino.
SHARYLAND HIGH (4): OF Anastasia Cruz; 3B/2B Ariana Garcia; SS/P Tristen Maddox; OF Lexy Murillo.
SHARYLAND PIONEER (2): C Alexia Hernandez; 1B Ilianna Casanova.
VALLEY VIEW (2): 1B/OF Alyssa Acosta; P/OF Loremi Cantu.