South softball sending three Lady Hawks to college ranks

HARLINGEN — Three Harlingen South Lady Hawks will be taking their talents to the world of college softball in the fall.

Alexa Saucedo, Alyssa Ledesma and Kiley Ruiz were the only seniors on the Harlingen South squad that won a District 32-6A co-championship and reached the area round of the playoffs this year. All three have signed scholarships to continue their storied careers.

Saucedo will be playing for the Trinity University Tigers under coach Abby Martin in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference at the NCAA Division III level. She’ll be studying biochemistry with a minor in Spanish as she works toward a career in the medical field. Trinity’s strong academics are what drew Saucedo to the school.

“My biggest goal is to go into the medical field … and they have a very high acceptance rate into medical school, so that really interested me. Then I got to know the coach and went on a visit, and I fell in love with her philosophy, with their campus, with their weight room. Everything was pretty much perfect for me,” Saucedo said.

“That was always the main goal, to pursue my academic interests and be able to continue playing the sport I love so much. There really are no words to describe achieving that. It’s everything to me,” she added.

Saucedo said the COVID-19 pandemic “put a strain” on the recruitment process, but she thanked her travel coaches and electronic communication for getting her in touch with schools. The former South shortstop prides herself on her defense and believes it will help her be an asset at Trinity. She’s excited to embrace her independence at college, but Saucedo also was grateful for the endless support she received from numerous people.

“The team was my second family, so being able to achieve the things we did was pretty incredible,” Saucedo said. “The main people (to thank) are definitely my parents. My dad is more on the athletic side … and my mom is the academic side. My coaches put a lot of effort into me and really believed in me. And of course my sister (and teammate Iliana), because she is my baby sister and I love her and she’s always been there. My entire family has pretty much never missed a game, so I had a lot of people with me.”

Ledesma is heading to the University of Texas at Dallas to play for coach Sarah Morales in the American Southwest Conference in Division III. The relationship she developed with Morales early in her prep career was a driving force for Ledesma deciding to join the Comets.

“Ever since I was a little girl, this has always been my goal. I was really excited and it felt really good. UT-Dallas,” Ledesma said. “Two summers ago we had a nationals (tournament) up in Plano. I sent an email out to (Morales), and I was lucky enough that she came out and watched me … Ever since that day I’ve kept in contact with her. I visited other schools before that and I didn’t get that connection with the coach. I felt that connection with her and felt I needed to go there.”

Ledesma believes her coachability and desire to absorb any advice she gets will help her succeed in college. She’s always willing to go the extra mile to get better, and she’s excited to take on new challenges playing at the next level. Ledesma always had plenty of people in her corner aiding her career.

“(Thanks to) all of my coaches that I’ve had since Day 1, but my biggest thank you goes out to my parents. My mom has been supporting me all the way through, and my dad has been the No. 1 coach for me. He was the first one with me on the field, so I’m very thankful for him,” Ledesma said.

Ruiz is Abilene-bound to join the Hardin-Simmons University Cowgirls and play for coach Chanin Naudin. She will also compete in the ASC and study nursing to become a nurse practitioner.

“This has been a goal of mine since I started playing at 7. It means the world to me, and this is what my dad really wanted me to do so that’s what I’m doing it for,” Ruiz said. “I’ve always been hard-working and I know you get what you put in, so I think that’s what’s going to help me at the next level, trying to beat out my competition and just bettering myself.”

Ruiz said recruitment “was difficult this year with COVID,” so she leaned on emails, jumping on Zoom calls and sending videos to find opportunities to continue playing. Naudin saw Ruiz at camps and pursued her as a pitcher, but Ruiz feels she can also help at first or in the outfield as needed. Ruiz said softball taught her that when times get tough, work harder, and she thanked her supporters for helping her do that and reach this longtime goal.

“(Thanks to) my pitching coach, George Gidora. He has pushed me this whole time and helped me a lot. And of course my parents. They’ve been the best support system I could ask for,” Ruiz said.