Standing on the first-base line, looking out at the fence of a familiar ballpark, she laughed softly, recollections flowing freely now.
“Yeah, this is weird … I remember playing so many games here,” said Sammy Arciba, former EHS great and now Econ coach. “Me, Z, Nyssa, all of us, back in the Lady Bobcat days, those days were the best!”
Arciba’s homecoming, back to the field and mound from which she used to dominate before embarking on a three-year college softball journey, was made even more special obviously. By the coach opposing her Thursday afternoon.
“I went over for dinner last night, and now we are facing off out here,” said Arciba, 24, whose father, Ramon, is the EHS coach and had enjoyed more than his share of pre-game enchiladas Wednesday evening. “He is very happy for me, but he said it was a little bittersweet, getting ready to coach against his daughter.”
That was the prominent sub-text for the 31-6A clash between EHS and the Lady Jags, a meeting of family members in the sport they have both loved forever. Ramon coached his kid from age 5 and she became one of the hardest-throwing hurlers in city annals, a pitcher who led the program during one of its glory periods and then took it to the next level, first at Prairie View A&M and later Huston-Tillotson.
The present was also a factor in the reunion, however, as both teams have struggled early on and were looking for some momentum. Sammy’s nine was coming off a nice victory over Donna North Tuesday, in which the Lady Jags showed their improvement.
“We got a good game pitching, made the plays, and hit the ball,” she said. “It helped us get some confidence to be consistent. I have some good girls, they listen and they work hard.”
For EHS, Thursday offered a chance for redemption after a dispiriting loss at North two days prior.
“Too many errors, we just didn’t play very well,” said Ramon Arciba, whose championship club has wobbled under the transfer loss of a couple of stalwarts. “We have to keep fighting, working, and it will turn around. Errors in the field do not help the pitchers at all, and we just have to be able to make the routine plays every time.”
The Lady Bobcats got back on track, taking a 13-0 win thanks to a five-run first and no-hit twirling from Julia Tamez in the circle. Seci Lopez and Val de Leon drove in three runs each while Kristee Salas had two hits and a walk. This team still has talent, and will surely be a factor in the race.
For Econ it is one step at a time, and EHS’s Arciba knows that the Lady Jags will eventually respond to his offspring’s tutelage.
“She is very relatable to the kids, and that’s partly because she’s really young,” he commented. “But she’s also easy to approach and she knows the sport. I mean, she played in college so the girls know she has that record. I think she’ll do a great job.”
Econ has some solid players this season and has scored more runs per game in 2019 than it has in many seasons, including a 10-spot against Donna North. As they settle in with their new coach, seasoned vets such as Brittney Loredo, Monica Molina, and Hope Gonzalez hope to bring the program into the conversation.
“You can tell she knows what she’s doing,” said Gonzalez, younger sister of four-year program standout Destiny Gonzalez, who graduated last year. “And she will get out there and pitch to us sometimes in practice. She throws real fast, and it has helped us get ready for the speed we’ll see in district.”
EHS is working with de Leon at second, veteran Maya Zavala at short, Salas at third, and junior Bryhane Salinas at first. The catcher is junior Valeria Gallardo, a Rowe transfer who is normally a shortstop, and she displayed a strong arm from behind the plate plus a quick, compact swing; Gallardo had three hits versus Econ. Lopez starts in center when not pitching, while the corner outfield spots have been up for grabs between a number of underclassmen.
The Lady Jags have senior Alyssa Perez at third, Molina at second with volleyball libero Gerrie Ortiz at short. Gonzalez and Loredo pitch and play the outfield. They also have Aaron Guerra, an EHS grad and former pro ballplayer, working with Sammy Arciba as an assistant, after the former spent many years as a baseball coach at the school. Noe Cantu, another ex Bobcat diamond king, has been with his alma mater as an assistant the past several seasons.
Thursday at EHS was all about history, overlain onto the present and future.
NOTES: North had a great week, following the win over EHS with a 9-3 win against Weslaco East in which sophomore Annabel Segoviano went 4 for 4.