By the time successful athletes are competing at the high school level, they’ve likely been playing sports for a full decade.
That means they got started when they were very young – maybe even as young as six or seven years old.
That’s why youth sports are so important, particularly in a small community.
That’s also why it’s so exciting – and a little surprising – to see a sudden surge in interest in youth fast-pitch softball this summer in Lincoln County.
Seven teams in seven age divisions from Ruidoso and Capitan are competing this season in the Alamogordo Girls Fast Pitch League, and every coach involved is beyond excited.
“It’s an explosion of girls youth fast pitch softball, and it’s awesome,” said Scott Roser, who coaches his daughter Sadie on the Lightning team. “Two years ago, we had a 14U team in this league, and we were the only ones from Ruidoso there at that point. We’ve been working really hard this week in practice, and we’re excited.”
Teams from Ruidoso are the Sassy Sluggers in 8U, Sassy Sluggers and NM Heat in 10U, Warriors in 12U, Lighting in 14U and Toros in 16U. Additionally, the Capitan team Hangloose is also playing at the 16U level.
The Capitan Cobras – essentially the Capitan High School junior varsity – had played in this league the last two years, and that experience has paid dividends with the Lady Tigers, who made it to the State semifinals two years ago and into the quarterfinals this year.
All the Ruidoso teams now in the mix could do the same thing for the Lady Warrior program down the road.
Much like Hangloose, the Toros were members of the Ruidoso junior varsity team this past spring.
“We’ve lost a lot of seniors for the high school team, so these are the girls that are going to be on the field for Ruidoso next year,” said RHS grad Taylor Mowdy, who serves as the coach for the Toros. “I’ve played in this since I was 12, but we’ve always had just one team each year. Now with all these teams, this will help us build it at the high school. We’re going to be stacked.”
In fact, there are so many Lincoln County teams on the Alamogordo schedule, several games have been added to be played at Gavilan Canyon Field in Ruidoso.
That included a double header in which the 10U Sassy Sluggers and NM Heat both played Alamogordo’s Dream Team on June 1.
“I love having all these teams in the league, I’m just hoping we can get more people to coach,” said NM Heat coach Amanda Luevano. “It will be bigger next year, now that everyone knows it’s coming around.
“We have a lot of support with the community, and next year hopefully we can get more girls and get the high school team ready for the future,” she added. “We have girls who have never touched a ball in their lives. So the learning process and getting the girls to keep wanting to come out here, to keep learning and keep playing, is the most important thing.”
Games at Gavilan Canyon are scheduled for June 6, 13, 20 and 27 and July 6 before the conclusion of the season.
Additionally, the Sassy Sluggers are combining 8U and 10U players to create one travel team.
That team has already been to a tournament in Hobbs, and will appear in this weekend’s Queen of the Mountain Tournament at Gavilan Canyon, with one pool play game each on Friday and Saturday.
“This has been good experience for the girls and an eye opener on what we need to work on and where we need to be,” said Sluggers coach Appolonia Page. “The girls are super excited to play in a tournament on their home field, on a field they practice on every day.”
NM Heat is also planning on tournament play, making an appearance at the Playing For James tournament in Alamogordo in July.