LOS FRESNOS — A high school softball is 12 inches in circumference, but it looks more like the size of a beach ball for the Los Fresnos Lady Falcons.
Los Fresnos has blasted 32 home runs, including 13 through its six-game postseason journey. A string of four homers enforced a run-rule in the one-game bi-district playoff against Edinburg North. Three long balls helped the Lady Falcons come back to beat Northside Warren in the area round. And with history on the line in a huge regional quarterfinal rematch with district rival Weslaco High, Los Fresnos used six homers to earn a sweep.
The power that runs all through the lineup has sparked a historic season for the District 32-6A co-champion Lady Falcons. Today at 7 p.m., No. 4 Los Fresnos kicks off a series with No. 5 Austin Bowie at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi in the Lady Falcons’ first regional semifinal appearance in program history.
“Coach (Mario) Rodriguez (from Weslaco High) came over and said, ‘We tried to pitch around you every which way, but your girls are seeing watermelons,’” Lady Falcons coach Traci Blackman said. “They’re just seeing it and making good, solid contact. We haven’t hit as many as we have in the past, but it seems like the ones we are hitting are coming just at the right time when we need them. It gets them all excited and fired up.”
It’s hard to pitch around any one particular player in the lineup because, as the Lady Falcons like to say, their lineup is stacked. Nine different players have hit at least one home run this year. Junior outfielder Victoria Altamirano leads the way with seven, followed by sophomore pitcher Katelynn Perez’s six. Sam Campos and Kayla Jimenez have each hit four. Dakota Martinez and Krystal Perez have three, Aileen Avelar and Teresa Villa have two, and Sophie Varela has hit one.
“We all have big bats, like, really all of us. We work hard during practice, doing drills, staying behind the ball, staying off the risers. A lot of us just look for our pitch and swing hard,” Altamirano said. “Once you see that pitch, you just want to rip it and come home to your teammates yelling. It’s a good feeling.”
Finding the pitch a player hits best is something Blackman preaches. She said it’s exciting to see the girls being patient in the box and recognizing what works for them, then capitalizing when the time comes. Having such a deep and consistent lineup makes things easier for each player, because they know if they’re having an off day, someone else will pick them up.
Altamirano got things going during the big series against then-No. 1 Warren when she went yard in the seventh inning of Game 2. She was told she became the first person to homer off Warren’s pitcher that season, and the energy she brought to the dugout was contagious.
Third baseman Krystal Perez has been one of Los Fresnos’ hottest bats during the playoff run. She leads the team with three postseason home runs after not hitting any in the regular season, and she credits the uptick in production to her growth and maturity.
“If I see it’s a good pitch, I take it, but I’m very patient in the box. I fixed myself against risers because I get a lot of risers, so I watch that pitch and don’t swing at it anymore,” Perez said. “Me being able to climb up the lineup, because I was No. 7 and now I’m No. 4, feels great. Definitely (more responsibility). I’m just trying to get a base hit so my next hitter can move me over or bring me home. It feels really good (to produce) because it’s playoff season, so it counts a lot more.”
This playoff run has been just as powerful as the Los Fresnos lineup. Blackman got choked up as she talked about what it means to finally break down the barrier to the Sweet 16.
“We’re so thankful for the opportunity. A few years back we went to the regional quarterfinals and we lost to San Benito, and it was really hard for me,” Blackman said. “I just kept saying, ‘Why not us? Our girls work so hard and they’re so good. Why not us?’ And I prayed about it a whole lot, and it came back to me that it wasn’t our time.”
But it is their time now, and the Lady Falcons aren’t taking it lightly.
“Making school history with this group, we deserve this. It’s a big deal. We know Bowie’s a good team, but we know what we can do. We’re really excited and confident for this round,” Altamirano said.
Added Perez: “Being the only Valley team left in the playoffs, we just want to represent the Valley and go further for the people supporting us through this journey.”