Ask Pahrump Valley softball coach Eli Armendariz what the strength of his team is, and he doesn’t take long to answer.
“The camaraderie, absolutely,” he said. “It seems like pretty much everybody likes everybody else, or at least they will get along for the good of the team. And we have a lot of three-sporters and two-sporters, so they see each other all year long, and then they play together in the summer.”
The Trojans have plenty of experience, but they will have a different look after the graduation of second-team all-state catcher Jordan Egan, who hit .611 with 16 doubles, 11 home runs and 44 RBIs as a senior to earn first-team Class 3A all-state honors.
“We’ll have more hitters with some power, not the big power we had last year,” said Armendariz, who believes some of his returning players will develop more of a power stroke.
And while one all-state player is gone, another returns. Infielder Skyler Lauver was named first-team Class 3A all-state after batting .537 and driving in 30 runs as a freshman.
Lauver is joined in the talented infield by second-team all-region pick Jackie Stobbe (.443 average, 16 RBIs), Samantha Riding, Virginia Weir and Nicky Velasquez. Taylor Egan (.478), another second-team all-region pick, or Riding will play first.
Armendariz said he has three quality catchers in Hayley Cuellar, Jessica Pearson and Mckayla Bartley. Pearson hit .561 as a freshman.
Senior Amaya Mendoza (6-4 last year) is the leading pitcher, but Armendariz again might employ multiple pitchers per game and will have junior newcomer Hayley Cuellar and freshmen Allyson Rily, Nicky Velasquez and Hannah Cuellar ready to go.
“I did that last year for the first time, actually used them every two or three innings so batters wouldn’t get used to one pitcher,” Armendariz said. “I might use that same rotation this year.”
The outfield appears set.
“Our outfield is very, very solid,” Armendariz said. “We have two seniors. In left field will be Evandy Murphy and center field will be Kathy Niles. In right field, we have a couple of sophomores, Ashleigh Murphy and Terrena Martin.” Evandy Murphy, who hit .412, was a second-team all-region pick, and the speedy Martin hit .500 while scoring 46 runs and stealing 21 bases.
“We will have a lot more speed on the bases,” said the coach, noting the speed of Martin and the return of Ashleigh Murphy, who broke an ankle last year.
The Trojans buried the competition in the Sunset League last year, averaging 19 runs in league play with every contest ending by the mercy rule. Between the returning talent, depth and quality of competition, it would be hard to blame the team for setting high goals this season.
“We’re just trying to have a good time, enjoy playing and have a winning record,” said Armendariz, whose teams have made the playoffs five times in seven years. “My expectations are for us to win the league, finish top two in region so we can go to state, and when we get to state we’ll see what happens.”
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