It’s not the pressure or the reward of winning a state championship, but Cibola High softball coach Gene Victor figures coaching an all-star softball squad is one of the most affirming jobs one could find.
“You coach these girls,” Victor said, “you don’t worry about the future of this country. These girls are the cream of the crop.”
Class 4A and 5A’s 32 best seniors, as selected by the state’s coaches, will meet for the 22nd year with as the North-South Softball All-Star series at Wildcat Softball Field — a 6 p.m. doubleheader Friday and a 10 a.m. affair Saturday.
Victor’s Cougars, champions of 5A, lead the way with six selections for the North squad. Cibola’s Melissa Martinez is part of the three-girl rotation with Aztec’s Leah Baker and Tristin Moore of 4A champ Piedra Vista.
Carlsbad and Artesia each lead the South with three selections. Second-baseman Nicole Anaya was the lone pick for Clovis.
The South leads the overall series 14-7, but last year’s series win — also at Clovis — was the South’s first since 2004. It’s a moderate source of pride for the squad.
“We would like to go out there and win two games and claim it for the South,” said Artesia’s Scott Simer, the South coach. “But it’s all about showcasing these players and their talents.
“They’ve accomplished a lot in their young careers, and we’re just here to give them one more chance.”
Simer said the only job coaches really have in the game is to organize things because the players will figure things out. Simers will juggle pitching lineups between the familiar (Artesia’s Rani Fulkenberry) and former rivals (Raquel Grajeda of Roswell, Allie Carrigan of Carlsbad and Santana Martinez of Onate).
On either team, Victor said, there’s not a weak spot in the lineup. But still, he expects pitching to dominate on the weekend since many players have not been in competitives games for a month nd have only been practicing together since Wednesday.
“It’s difficult,” Victor said, “because you’ve only got a day and a half to find out strengths, batting orders.”