By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The fruits of the a new youth fast-pitch softball league in Clovis probably won’t be seen at the high school level for a few years, but league president Yolanda Aguilar said things went well during the league’s recently-completed first season.
It was a learning experience for coaches as well as players, she noted.
“We had an excellent season,” said Aguilar, who oversaw a group of 16 teams divided into three age levels — 14-and-under, 12-and-under and 10-and-under. “All the coaches worked together to help each other out. It was a learning thing for the coaches as well.”
All the teams were Clovis-based except for one in Portales. Aguilar said one 14U team advanced to state competition last weekend in Albuquerque, finishing ninth out of 17 teams, while the Portales 14U squad played in a state-level West Texas competition in Midland.
The whole idea is to expose area girls to fast-pitch before they get to the high school level, where most cities of size in New Mexico already have an established program.
“We’re trying to get those kids started earlier so it won’t be such a shock when they try out for the high school team as eighth graders,” Aguilar said.
CHS softball coach Brandi Thomas said, in time, it should help her program.
“We’re excited about it,” she said of the new league. “That’s what we’ve been screaming for now for the last eight years. We’ve felt we needed a feeder program to compete with other (high school) teams.
“We had a lot of my junior high kids playing (in the league) this summer.”
Most games were played at the Greene Acres Park field, with some at Spencer Field.
Aguilar said the league hopes to grow next year, although that could present a problem in finding enough fields to schedule games. She said, if possible, an 8-and-under coach-pitch division may be added.
“Next year we’re hoping it’ll get bigger as kids and parents see what it’s all about,” she said. “We’re also looking to get some coaching clinics going.”
Others with fast-pitch experience helped coaches make the transition this year, Aguilar said, adding that most towns of size in the state have had feeded programs for a while because of the availability of the sport at the high school and college levels.
“We had some help from former high school coaches and older people who’ve played (fast-pitch),” Aguilar said. “We’re probably one of the last larger cities in New Mexico to (start a program).”