TUCSON — The season might not have ended the way they wanted, but a group of talented Lady Bears got one last chance to take the field together.
Seven athletes from Pinal County, including three from Coolidge participated in two Southern Arizona All-Star Softball games Wednesday night at Sports Park Tucson.
Florence had one representative in Alixis Padilla. Coolidge and Vista Grande each had three seniors along with head coaches Dan Aleman and Rudy Valenzuela.
This was Valenzuela’s second time being selected to coach an All-Star team, the first time was in 2019.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was great doing it for the girls, I know a lot of these girls from the other schools. They selected the best of the best, and I enjoyed coaching them. That’s the one thing that I like about all of this is that they’re all friends, even though they’re coming from different schools it’s like they’ve known each other, it’s great.”
Padilla was the only Pinal County athlete to compete by herself on the Kino Black 1 team.
Over her three-year career with the Gophers, Padilla batted .384 with a .453 on base percentage and a .609 slugging percentage. She also had a .820 fielding percentage at shortstop.
The other game featured Valenzuela and Aleman on the same coaching staff for the Kino Black 2 team as well as Rheana Ortiz and Precious Skinner from the Bears, and Brooklyn Flores and Amyah Boostedt from the Spartans.
Ortiz and Skinner played together for the Bears since they were freshmen. Ortiz played multiple positions at Coolidge as a utility player and during Wednesday’s game she settled in behind the plate.
Her career stat line of .428/.477/.618 provided a solid boost offensively for the Bears and she had an equally impressive .965 fielding percentage.
Her production was enough to earn a spot at Central Arizona College, where she is expected to play catcher next season. Playing at the all-star game was a nice way to prepare for that next level of play.
“It was an eye opener for college, so now I have to get ready for what’s next out there,” Ortiz said. “I’m gonna be catching for Central, so I have to get everything ready for college.”
Skinner showed a lot of improvement throughout her career after hitting .128 her freshman year, she finished this season with a .312 batting average.
“I was excited about it, but I was nervous at the same time because I knew I was playing against girls that were, if not better than me, at the same level as me,” Skinner said. “But it was fun. I’m glad I got selected.”
In the opposite dugout on the other side of the field on Wednesday were Megan Fahnholz and Bri Jorgensen who were part of the Kino Gold 4 team.
While there was no official score, Fahnholz and Jorgensen’s team scored four runs while their opponent never crossed the plate.
After injuries derailed Coolidge’s season in the final weeks, the Lady Bears didn’t get the postseason games they so badly wanted. So getting this chance to play one more time together was all the more special.
“One more game with them was all I wanted,” Ortiz said. “I’ll remember all the bus rides we had going to games, but these bonds are going to last.”