RUIDOSO – Softball at Ruidoso High School has been a curious conundrum. It’s not a “prestige sport” like football or volleyball have been, but it hasn’t been completely terrible, either.
That’s where new softball coach Michelle Mejia is hoping to change things.
“This year, I want to turn the program around,” Mejia said. “I want them to get focused and have everything they do taken seriously.”
Mejia comes to Ruidoso from the El Paso by way of California, where she learned to play softball the “old school” way, with lots of discipline and fundamentals.
It’s exactly that sort of mindset she’s hoping to instill at RHS.
“They’re already kind of stunned by the discipline,” Mejia said. “I’m just a different coach, because I was taught by old school coaches, especially in California. I grew up with that, and I wanted to bring that out here.”
Mejia has coached at schools in El Paso, as well as at Loving in New Mexico, a school that’s had its share of softball excellence.
She also works with Softball Factory, a youth development program that conducts camps and clinics across the country.
She was actually with the Warriors near the end of their 11-18 campaign last season as a volunteer coach in the final month, helping out then-head-coach Sal Beltran.
It was a season that saw Ruidoso go 11-18 on the season, but hold their own at 5-7 in a District 4-4A that boasted strong teams like Portales, Moriarty and Hope Christian.
They even stole a victory from the Rams, long a thorn in Ruidoso’s side. But it was that same Portales team that put the Warriors into the double-elimination bracket of the Class 4A State playoffs with a 14-3 loss.
Ruidoso later lost by one run to Santa Fe Indian to see their season come to an end.
That team featured a lot of senior talent – including pitcher Torri Trapp, outfielder Raelynn Bonilla and South All-Stars Ashleigh Carpenter and Lia Mosher.
But after that, it was a lot of sophomores, and all those sophomores are juniors this year, back to lead the team to greater heights.
That includes infielders Sawyer Mowdy and Sophia Reyes, catcher Gracie Hooker, and outfielders Macey Boyiddle, Alyssa Colmenero, Calli Patterson and home run hitter Andee Roach.
“Sophia has been working and improving a lot, so has Alyssa,” Mejia said. “They’re scrappy and get to the ball well. I think we’ll surprise a lot of people this year.
“All these girls work hard, you can seem them trying and leading the team,” she added. “If they’re telling the girls to pick it up, they’ll do it. They do when their peers are trying hard and leading.”
The biggest question mark is who could pitch. Mosher and Trapp were the only ones listed as pitchers on last year’s roster, with Trapp getting the lion’s share of time in the circle.
But the solid corps of juniors should bode well for the Warriors, particularly against the district and state competition they’ll face this year.
Mejia knows something of the quality of softball in this state, having coached at Loving and seen elite teams like Dexter, Eunice and Jal.
“It is about discipline and having short-term memory, so when things start going wrong, just forget about it and move on,” Mejia said. “They’ll have to focus on having a goal every time they come to bat or go into the field. That will make the difference with this team.
“The girls last year saw them push hard at State, and I saw how they did and saw what we had,” she added. “It’s very important they saw those girls push at State and know what it takes to get there. The girls are already excited and have that goal in mind. I think they’re ready.”