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Othello fastpitch softball top seed in state tournament

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | May 26, 2022 4:49 PM

OTHELLO — Othello High School fastpitch softball coach Rudy Ochoa said he was optimistic about the 2022 season, but it turned out even better than he expected.

“I figured we’d have a pretty good team,” he said. “But about the fifth or sixth game, we knew we had something special.

“We went up against one of the best teams in the state, Shadle Park, and we beat them,” Ochoa said. “Two days later we played Selah, and not only did we beat them, we 10-runned them in the second game. Right there that told me we had something.”

The Lady Huskies are the top seed going into the state tournament, which starts today. Othello takes on West Valley of Spokane at noon at Carlon Park in Selah.

Sophomore Amarie Guzman said she knew it was going to be a good season right from the start.

“I knew the potential our team had,” Guzman said. “Working together – that’s what was going to bring our team along.”

“Ever since our first practice, the chemistry was just there,” said junior Camryn McDonald. “We all just get along and we know how each other play already.”

“Working together,” Guzman said. “That’s what was going to bring the team along.”

“We do have experienced players,” said freshman Lovie Franco, “so it all kind of meshed together well.”

Senior Maya Valdez, on the other hand, was a little surprised.

“I did not know we were going to be as good as we are this year,” Valdez said. “I knew we were going to have a strong team, because I’ve been playing with these girls for a couple years now.”

Othello has a strong tradition in fastpitch, as evidenced by the trophies the Huskies have brought home in their 25 years in state competition.

“We’ve been state champions four times, and we’ve been in the finals eight times,” Ochoa said.

One of the foundations of that tradition is a lot of opportunity to play before high school. Among other things, the players get to know each other.

“We’ve been playing together, on and off, it seems like since Little League,” McDonald said.

Valdez said the players also put in the time and effort to get better.

“I’ve been playing with most of these girls for five, six years,” she said. “And pretty much all of us put in a lot of extra time after practice, hitting (and) fielding. I think the entire team plays on a tournament ball team in the offseason.”

Ochoa said the ability to work together is crucial to success, even more important than experience.

“It’s the spirit, and what they bring to the team,” he said. “I mean, you could have an experienced team and it’s not going to work if they’re fighting with each other.”

“We’ve got good leadership. That probably comes along with not fighting with each other, I imagine,” he said.

Playing softball well requires a team that gets along, the players said.

“Understanding your teammates, and trusting them,” Guzman said.

Mental toughness is part of playing well.

“You have to be mentally really strong,” Valdez said.

“You have to have confidence in yourself,” Franco said.

“Because your competition can be just as good as you but not as mentally tough as you,” McDonald said.

Getting that mental toughness comes with time, and it too requires a team that works together.

“It comes with experience,” Franco said.

“And a lot of trust,” McDonald said.

“Believing in yourself,” Valdez said.

“And trusting your teammates,” McDonald said. “Even if you make a mistake they’ll lift you up.”

It’s an exciting time, with the state tournament dead ahead.

“It’s the week we’ve all been waiting for,” Guzman said. “The whole season we’ve been preparing for this week.”

Ochoa said it’s been a great season, no matter the outcome at the state tournament.

“In reality, you know that every team there has a shot. And like I’ve told my team - not just this team but other teams – any team can beat you on any given day. So you never really know.

“They’ve got to know that even if they fail, it’s been a great season.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Sophomore Persayis Garza fields the ball during Othello fastpitch softball practice.

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Othello fastpitch softball head coach Rudy Ochoa hits grounders to the team during Tuesday’s practice.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Sophomore Persayis Garza mimics the throw to first during practice. The Othello High School fastpitch softball team opens state tournament play today.

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Sophomore Amarie Guzman tracks the ball during Othello fastpitch softball fielding practice Tuesday.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Sophomore Persayis Garza tracks the ball during fielding practice. The Othello High School softball team is the top seed going into the state tournament.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Sophomore Amarie Guzman practices playing a shallow fly ball at Tuesday’s Othello High School fastpitch softball practice.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Camryn McDonald (left) flashes a smile during Othello High School fastpitch softball practice Thursday.

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