By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
Usually, when a team comes off a Sweet 16 appearance, a sense of accomplishment fills the air.
But in San Benito, it’s just business as usual.
A year removed from the program’s sixth berth in the regional semifinals, the Lady ’Hounds took to the diamond this week as the 2015 high school softball season got under way.
Veteran skipper Elias Martinez’s club started things off on Thursday at the annual Mission Fastpitch Festival, winning 9-0 over Laredo Nixon in the first game of the season.
Expectations are always high for Martinez’s clubs and this year is no exception. Many prognosticators have pegged San Benito as one of the teams to beat in Valley softball, as is the case each year.
Once again, the path to a lengthy postseason journey will not be easy. The defending 31-5A champions move over to 32-6A with familiar foes like Brownsville Porter, Los Fresnos, Harlingen and Harlingen South but have plenty of ammunition back for another deep postseason run.
Despite the loss of two-time All-Valley MVP Amber Jasso, eight talented lettermen are back for this year’s group (six starters), led by senior pitcher Crystal Castillo, who exploded onto the scene last year as one of the Valley’s premier pitchers en route to 31-5A Most Valuable Player honors. Castillo as a 20-plus game winner and was as steady as they came and guided the Lady ’Hounds with her steady presence in the circle.
Catcher Kimberly Harper, a freshman on the 2013 state tournament team, returns from injury as it back as are second baseman Mel Gonzalez, shortstop Jav’ana Gonzalez , 1B Cynthia Rodriguez, and Alexxus Cavazos, whose red-hot hitting earned her district designated player honors.
In addition, some talented newcomers will dot the San Benito lineup as per usual and help fill in some of the gaps for the normally-stocked roster.
The Lady ’Hounds continue at the Mission tournament this weekend before their next tournament at La Joya on Feb. 26-28, next weekend. San Benito opens 32-6A play on March 3 at Brownsville Hanna before their final tourney of the season, the girls’ annual trek to Corpus Christi for the ultra-competitive Mira’s Softball Bash.
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