South sweeps North stars in softball

The North’s Pamela Apodaca of Cibola slides safely into second under the tag of South’s shortstop Devin Zaragoza of Alamogordo. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth

By Eric Butler, CNJ Correspondent

Clovis may be on the east side of the state, but New Mexico’s South softball all-stars were feeling right at home once again over the weekend.

For the second straight year since the three-game series moved to Clovis, the South swept the North squad.

The South swept a Friday night doubleheader at the Clovis High softball complex 7-6 and 11-1. On Saturday, after five innings of scoreless ball, the Southerners struck for four in the sixth — en route to a 5-1 victory.

The initial game of the series, which went into extra innings, was the most competitive as the South survived a base-loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the eighth and pushed across the winning run in the top of the ninth.

Michelle Ladd of Grants, who was 3-for-5 at the plate, led off the frame and the South rally with a single.

After a groundout and an opposite-field single by Carlsbad’s Carolyn Garcia, the South MVP, Silver’s Tracey Fortenberry hit a soft liner. North shortstop Jessica Hines of Capital tried to make the catch, but fell just shy — all while Deming’s Jacklyn Ciccotelli raced home for the winning run.

“I actually thought that it would be a little dinker,” said Fortenberry of her fortuitously-placed ball. “I hit it on the handle of the bat, so I didn’t think it was going to go very far.”

Garcia, who took the mound in the fourth, allowed only one run the rest of the way and got some big-time help from her defense in the eighth.

After Cibola’s Pam Apodaca walked to load the bases for the North with one out, Valley’s Stephanie Valdez lined a Garcia pitch sharply to short.

But Alamogordo’s Devin Zaragoza snagged the drive and threw quickly to another member of the Tigers’ Class 5A state championship team, third baseman Nicky Bregler, to double up the runner.

Garcia also started the second game of Friday’s doubleheader.

She teamed with Alamogordo’s Michelle Sayen to limit the North to five hits in the blowout win.

“It’s a good thing that my Carlsbad coach used to make me pitch doubleheaders,” said Garcia, who expressed gratitude for her defense in the late-going of the opener. “I had total faith in my team that they would back me up if anything happened. There’s awesome players out there — the very best from each team.”

In Saturday’s finale, Sayen got the win while Bloomfield pitcher Janelle Lambson did her part by holding the South batters in check. Until, that is, mistakes and one seeing-eye single did her in.

In the sixth, Lambson hit the first batter — Alamo’s Nicole Bregler — with a pitch. One out later, Texas Tech-bound Zaragoza reached on an error.

Another Alamogordo player, Ashley Rahn, then hit a soft pop up just over the glove of Lambson to load the bases.

Garcia’s solid single to left scored two runs. She finished with six hits over the weekend.

Ladd drove in two more runs with a single up the middle to break the game open.

South coach Charlene Reyes of Alamogordo praised her team’s pitching depth.

“Coming into it, we knew we had Michelle and Carolyn Garcia. But the Lovington pitcher (Stephanie Ganaway) and the pitcher from Jal (Jami Smith), we didn’t know anything about,” Reyes said. “Immediately, when we took a look at them in practice the first day, we thought, ‘Oh, this is awesome.’ They’re four formidable pitchers.”

For the North, St. Pius catcher Chelsea Duree was selected as her team’s most valuable player of the series.