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San Luis softball completes most successful season in school history

Sidewinders team photoMore than two decades in the making, the San Luis High School softball program wrapped up its first winning season in program history.

While they narrowly missed the state playoff tournament, the Sidewinders (9-8) advanced to the play-in round of the postseason behind an incredible regular season that included four shutout victories, five double-digit scoring outings, and a stretch of six wins in seven games from late March to early April.

“The theme throughout this season was never give up. If you fall, you stand up and keep doing it until you get it and discipline is what matters and have fun,” SLHS junior pitcher and outfielder Almayde Gil said. “It’s the best experience you will have. Don’t let it go to waste.”

And they refused to let anything get wasted.

After opening the season with a record of 1-2, they split a two-game series against perennial contender and intra-district rival, Gila Ridge, to propel themselves into the most positive stretch of play since the program’s first varsity season in 2003. At one point, during a four-game winning streak, they outscored opponents, 53-2.

That kind of dominance has not been common for a San Luis program that had never previously won more than five games in a season. However, there were signs of a turnaround in years prior, two of which were under head coach Aylin Gutierrez. They went 3-3 in her second season, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. After Gutierrez was away for a year, the team went 5-9 in 2021 under assistant Eddie Camero, and Gutierrez capitalized on that positive momentum to lead a young roster to a few innings away from the playoffs.

“Their love for the sport and wanting to make it to the playoffs is more noticeable as they saw how close we were to that goal,” Gutierrez said. “Now that they had the opportunity to experience this up close, I can see what and where to improve in order to get better. It is not only a motivation for the girls, but for me as well. As a coach, I am eager to learn more about the game, learn more about coaching, and what I can bring to the program in order to become better myself. This is just the beginning. Our first step for history, and I can't wait to see what else the future has in store for us down the road.”

The Sidewinders return 10 of their 15 varsity players next season, including Gil and Daysy Juarez, who led the team in strikeouts. The duo combined for 8 victories and accounted for 97 of 126 innings pitched. While their offensive leader Alondra Sandoval, who had a team-high 47 hits with 41 RBI and 9 home runs, will graduate this month, outfielder Ivannya Perez and first baseman Miah Vanegas are among the others expected to return in 2023.

“Softball in the City of San Luis is a very popular sport that is becoming more competitive with every passing year,” SLHS Athletic Director David Barrios said. “With the continued support of the community, the athletes, Coach Gutierrez and her coaching staff there is no doubt in my mind that softball at SLHS is on the right path to become a highly competitive and successful program. I am very proud of the players and coaches for this achievement and excited to see how they build on this success.”

Eric Patten