Portales Sun Devils headed for Nationals

By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer

A dozen 10-and-under girls softball players were brought together earlier this summer to extend their softball season and to have some fun along the way. Now, after winning the 10-and-under state tournament in Clovis last week, this group of girls are headed to the National Softball Tournament in Lubbock, Texas but they need some help getting there.

The Portales Sun Devils surprised many, including themselves, in their run to the state championship.

“The league changed, so I picked up girls who wanted to stay on and have fun and I picked up four other girls who didn’t play at all,”
Rodriguez said. “We put the team together to just have fun. When we went out and competed, it showed the talent that we have. They just love the game, it’s fun for them and they want to keep on going as far as they can take it, and our next step is Nationals.”

Brook Lopez, 10, was the Sun Devils catcher and said her teammates had to go through the toughest team in the competition to win it all.

“It felt good winning state,” Lopez said. “We played the Lady Rangers — that was our hardest team. They beat us by one, so we had to play them again and we wanted to win state. We wanted to beat them so bad that we just beat them 16-4.”

In fact, the Portales girls played the Lady Rangers from Hobbs three times in the tournament, handing them their first losses of the season.

“We played a team that was undefeated,” Rodriguez said. “Every tournament they went to they won and in their league they were undefeated — until they met us.”

Rodriguez also says that after winning the state championship game, his girls were ready for more.

“They asked, ‘Is this it?’, and I turned around and said, ‘No, we have another game’, and they took me seriously. I said, ‘No, girls this is it. This was the finals, the championship’. Because they didn’t even know that it was the championship game. That’s how excited and how much fun they were having.”

“I didn’t cry like most girls do but I was really happy,” Lopez said. “I’m really excited and I just want to show everybody else how good our team is and I think we can win Nationals too.”

The group says they’ll need to raise about $2,000 to cover expenses in getting to Lubbock for the national tournament.

“If we don’t get the donations than we probably won’t be able to go to Nationals,” 11-year-old Bianca Cano said. “If we could get there than that would be really nice to be able to play against other teams.”

“This is a first-time experience for all of them,” Rodriguez said. “I want the community to just see that they are there to have fun.”