Lady Falcons soaring into regional quarterfinals

LOS FRESNOS — It has been seven years since the Los Fresnos Lady Falcons were last in the regional quarterfinal round of the state softball playoffs.

Despite the lengthy absence, Los Fresnos is conservatively confident heading into a three-game series against District 32-6A rival Weslaco High that is set to kick off at 7 p.m. today in Los Fresnos, though field conditions still could play a factor in the site. The Lady Falcons are soaring after knocking off top-ranked and previously unbeaten Northside Warren in the area round, and they’re aiming to make history by reaching the Sweet 16.

“After the (loss in the first) game, we explained to them that in order to beat teams like that, you have to be all-in for the full seven innings,” Los Fresnos coach Traci Blackman said. “We were just so determined, and it showed. They never stopped fighting, and the more success we were having the louder they got and the more fired up they got, and the harder they played. They were not going to lose. I’m proud of them for that.

“People keep saying, ‘Well, you beat (Weslaco High) twice in district.’ Yeah, we did. But those games were 3-1 and 3-2, so we’re definitely not taking them lightly. These are the games that count,” she added. “If we continue to play like we have did against Warren, then we have a good chance to be successful. … The majority of our team is back (from last season). So, when people say, ‘Unfinished business,’ we really have unfinished business.”

The series will shift to Weslaco for Game 2 at 7 p.m. Friday, and, if necessary, Game 3 is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday in Los Fresnos. The locations may be swapped, depending on the condition of Los Fresnos’ field following heavy rainfall Wednesday morning. The teams also have PSJA North’s turf field on hold, just in case.

Regardless of where they play, the Lady Falcons are ready to bring the energy. Sophomore ace Katelynn Perez said cheering loudly in the dugout helped spark the big wins against Warren, and she wants Los Fresnos to keep that going in Round 3.

“It was awesome and felt so good for us to be the first team to beat (Warren),” Perez said. “They came in thinking we were just another team to beat. But we came in with a different mindset, wanting to win, and we never gave up. As long as we keep cheering like we did against Warren, we should be fine. Just eliminate errors and communicate, and work as a team. This is a big game for us. We just have to stay calm, cheer each other on, be humble and we should be good.”

Blackman praised the composure Perez shows considering her young age. Perez is used to having all eyes on her in the circle, and staying cool under pressure comes naturally.

The other end of Los Fresnos’ battery is senior catcher Samantha Campos. She said defeating Warren felt like a dream, but the Lady Falcons aren’t letting that success get to their heads. They know another tough test is ahead with the Lady Panthers, and Campos believes their dangerous lineup will push the Lady Falcons to the next round.

“We’re not going to go in with too much confidence, but we’re going in knowing what we’re capable of,” Campos said. “I think our bats are what carries us. Our defense is solid, and our pitcher is great. But overall, if our bats are on, very few teams can compete with us.”

One of the big and consistent bats in Los Fresnos’ arsenal belongs to outfielder Victoria Altamirano. The junior said the team’s chemistry and the way they’ve been hitting the ball is an advantage for the Lady Falcons.

Having beat Weslaco High twice gives the team some confidence, but Altamirano said the players know better than to get cocky. She’s proud of the work the Lady Falcons — who leaped up to the No. 8 spot in the TGCA poll this week — have put in to prove doubters wrong so far this season, and she thinks they’ll continue to show what they can do.

“The past few years, a lot of people have doubted us. But I feel like now we have a target on our back because we’re pretty high up right now. We deserve to be here, and we’re just trying to stay humble through it all,” Altamirano said. “We’re a little nervous, but I think we’ll be fine. We know they’re a good team. We’re just going to play at the level we’ve been playing and try to get the win.”