Eight sofball players land on all-star rosters

Karl Schneider, and Jake Newby
Farmington Daily Times
Farmington's KK Blackwood gets a hit against Miyamura on April 20 at the Ricketts Park Softball Complex.
  • Four Lady Panthers made the roster for the 5A/6A game
  • Three of the five seniors for Bloomfield made the North roster for the A/4A game
  • Farmington's KK Blackwood was an easy selection after posting a .658 batting average

FARMINGTON – Softball players from San Juan County have been well represented at the North/South All-Star games, and this year is no different after eight players made the North roster in the 5A/6A and A/4A games.

Farmington’s KK Blackwood and Piedra Vista’s Aleja Armenta, Tyra Garcia, Katie Jensen and Haley Parson all landed in the 5A/6A games. Bloomfield’s Kristen Espinosa, Thalia O’Neill and Daysha Smith made the roster for the A/4A games.

“I think it’s cool when the girls get to play in this game because it’s the last time they’ll put on their (high school) colors and play together, and with some of their competitors to build new friendships," PV head coach Kevin Werth. "It’s always a great experience."

Roster spots for the games are reserved for seniors and decided by a selection committee of coaches. All games will be played June 10-11 at the Cleveland High School Softball Complex in Rio Rancho.

Armenta, Garcia and Jensen played in all 30 of PV’s games while Parson saw action in 29 games.

Werth said Armenta was the ultimate team player at PV during her career and stepped up as a leader this season, serving as the top pitching option while batting cleanup.

“She’s done so much for our program, and I’m glad to see her get to play a couple of final games,” Werth said.

She appeared in 20 games in the circle, pitching 95 innings with an ERA of 3.17 while committing just two errors. At the plate, Armenta tied for the team high in home runs (seven), tied for second in RBIs (32) and drew a team-leading 13 walks while batting .391.

Piedra Vista's Aleja Armenta (15) is greeted by Tyra Garcia (4) and the rest of her Lady Panther teammates after hitting a home run against Farmington on April 22 at the Ricketts Park Softball Complex.

Garcia served well as PV’s leadoff hitter. She recorded team highs in hits (41), triples (four) and stolen bases (17) to go with a .390 batting average. Garcia was equally reliable in the right field, committing no errors on the season.

Batting in the two hole right behind Garcia, Jensen finished the season with a .376 batting average. She led the team in runs scored (36) and finished second in steals (12), while finishing top four on the team in hits (35), RBIs (25), doubles (four) and triples (three).

“If there was a strength for us, our outfield was solid this year. Last year, we struggled a bit out there, and they just grew up, got experience and were a lot more confident this year,” Werth said of Garcia and Jensen. “Obviously, both of them bring the fact that they can get on base at any time and their speed is always dangerous.”

Behind the plate, Parson was the eyes, voice and anchor of PV’s defense.

“Her experience was invaluable. Any time you have someone who’s a three-year starter behind the plate, it’s always going to be hard to replace,” Werth said. “She fought through a lot of pain with her back. Hopefully, she can rest up these next couple of weeks and give it one last go before she starts her college career.”

Blackwood was without doubt one of the best in the state at what she does. The left-handed slap bunter finished the season with an incredible .658 batting average from Farmington’s leadoff spot, including five triples and 16 stolen bases. And in her 76 at-bats, Blackwood struck out just four times.

“Everything on the field and off the field, she not only led by example, but showed what it takes to be successful,” Farmington head coach Tim Trotter said of Blackwood. “I know a lot of the younger girls, especially the girls in the outfield who worked with her every day, look up to her. And at the beginning (of the season), they didn’t really know how to be around her. She took them in and helped them out. I think everyone is happy to see her in the game and have success.”

On the A/4A side, O'Neill, Smith and Espinosa were three of five seniors to lace up the spikes for Bloomfield coach Andi Clark in 2016, and the trio will compete for the North All-Stars in a three-game series with the South.

"I think each one of them deserved it," Clark said. "All three of these girls have been with me since eighth grade. It says a lot that they were all five-year varsity players."

The ace starting pitcher for the Lady Bobcats, O'Neill went 12-6 while registering a 3.36 earned run average and striking out 91 batters in 104 innings. Her contributions to the District 1-4A champion Bobcats weren't just from the circle, as she put up a marvelous .560 batting average while serving as Bloomfield's cleanup hitter. She played shortstop on days she didn't pitch.

Bloomfield's Kristen Espinosa fields a ball during a game versus Miyamura on March 15 at the Bloomfield Softball Complex.

Smith and Espinosa were two constants in Bloomfield's outfield. Espinosa spent her time on defense in either left or right, while Smith's blazing speed made her a natural fit for center.

"Daysha is one of the best center fielders and one of the fastest kids I've ever seen; she ran a 2.4 from home to first," Clark said. "And we clocked her at that when she was hurt, so just imagine if she wasn't hurt."

Smith made "some game-changing catches in center field," this season according to Clark and hit .364 for the season.

Espinosa, who batted .395, wasn't as fast as Smith, but she was as complete a base runner as Clark said she has ever coached, stealing a team-high 25 bases. Smith was right behind her outfield mate with 22 steals.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.