Bloomfield sends two to Bacone for softball
Outfielders Daysha Smith and Kristen Espinosa will play softball for private college in Muskogee, Okla., this fall
BLOOMFIELD — Two-thirds of Bloomfield's district-championship winning outfield will head to Muskogee, Okla., this fall to play softball for Bacone College.
Recent graduates and speedy outfielders Daysha Smith and Kristen Espinosa signed their national letters of intent today at Bloomfield High School.
Both agreed to ink with Bacone in part because the move allows them to keep playing together while also continuing their friendship.
Former Bloomfield wrestler Corbin Nelson also accepted an offer from the Oklahoma private college.
"When our other friend, Corbin, got an offer there, we kind of said, 'Well, let's all go together!'" Espinosa said.
Lady Bobcats coach Andi Clark said a scout from Bacone came to see Smith and Espinosa play during the Rio Rancho Tournament in late March, and the duo has been in touch with staff at the school since then.
Clark said she knew all along that Smith and Espinosa could play after high school.
"I've always thought Daysha could go to the next level. Kristen was on the fence about playing, but I always thought she could play college ball, too," Clark said. "I'm just excited for them to go experience college ball, experience a place out of Bloomfield and out of this area. I always told them they could go do it."
Clark knew she had a pair of rock-solid outfielders in Smith and Espinosa who weren't going to make many mistakes on defense. The two were as steady defensively as any outfielders in Class 4A, and they'll both play in the A-4A All-Star Softball games next month in Rio Rancho.
When it came time to bunt or move runners over, Espinosa thrived. The right fielder batted .395, hitting mostly out of the No. 3 and No. 7 spots in the batting order. Once she got on base, she was always a threat to steal a bag, finishing the 2016 season with a team-high 25 stolen bases.
Espinosa — who said her mom and her coaches pushed her to become the player she is today — was always conscious of helping her team win during the rare occasions when her bat wasn't working.
"I knew I had to work on my defense after junior year and get better there, because I had to make it up somehow if I didn't get on base," she said.
Espinosa said she will major in sports management.
Smith received an offer to play at Urbana University in Ohio, but said she never seriously considered it. She said the opportunity to go to school with close friends was too good to pass up.
"I'm actually really excited to get away and to go and have an experience with my friends," Smith said. "It's smaller, so I get to go to class and play and not be distracted."
Smith hit .364 during her final season as a Lady Bobcat, racking up 22 stolen bases and engulfing center field with her 2.4 speed. Clark said Smith was good for a game-changing catch nearly every time she took the field.
"If anyone's seen Daysha play outfield for even a game or two, they've seen her make some amazing catches," Clark said. "She and Kristen both were just spot on in the outfield."
Smith, who will major in criminal justice, said coach Clark and assistant coach Cassie Davis are largely responsible for instilling a passion for softball in her that she didn't always have.
"I've been with (coach Clark) since eighth grade, and I came in not wanting to play," Smith said. "Her and coach Davis made me love it."
Both girls received $7,000 scholarships from Bacone, which competes in the Red River Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Last season, the Warriors finished fifth in the conference with a 17-30 overall record and a conference record of 12-16.
Clark said that while Espinosa and Smith won't be the most polished players on Bacone's roster when they arrive in Muskogee later this year, they'll bring a positive attitude and a willingness to work right away.
"Their attitude and their work ethic have always been fantastic. I think that will say a lot for them to go in there with the right mindset," Clark said. "Going in and pumping up the other girls when they're not playing well or whatever, that's something Kristen and Daysha can bring (to Bacone) right away."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.