By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Tucumcari to host season-opening softball doubleheader


April 28, 2021

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari freshman Amaya Ante swings at a batting-practice pitch from coach CJ Oglesby during a workout Wednesday near Rhodes Field House. The Lady Rattlers season-opening softball doubleheader begins at 4 p.m. May 4 against West Las Vegas.

Tucumcari High School softball coach CJ Oglesby admits he was ready to quit entirely when his promising team's season and other spring sports were canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when practices began for his young and inexperienced squad in early April, much of the heartache from that lost season melted away.

"I admit I was iffy after that season because I put so much heart into those girls," Oglesby said before practice last week. "To see it go down like that was heartbreaking. I still get emotional talking about it sometimes.

"But once I got out here and I saw the willingness and the girls wanting to play softball, it all came back to me. I'm really happy to be back."

Tucumcari will host a season-opening doubleheader against West Las Vegas starting at 4 p.m. May 4, then a single varsity game against visiting Raton at 2 p.m. May 8.

Oglesby readily acknowledges the Lady Rattlers might struggle this season because only one player - senior outfielder Felicity Lopez - returns from a team two years ago that finished 17-5 and earned its first-ever postseason berth.

The lack of offseason training because of the pandemic put those inexperienced players even more behind.

"What we're doing now in practice should have been done in the offseason," he said. "But there is talent. When they see how serious I am about it, they take it in. These girls are willing to learn. I'm really having to put forth the effort to coach. And you can see it paying off; they've shown a lot of improvement in just the last couple of weeks."

As for Lopez, Oglesby said he sees "amazing things" for her this season from a hitting standpoint. Two years ago, she hit .356 with five triples and two homers in 17 games.

Oglesby said two players - Gabriella Gray and Erica Vasquez - from the 2019 team enthusiastically signed up as volunteer assistant coaches this year. Brittany Pulcini is Oglesby's official assistant coach.

"They got fired up from that experience and want to pass it on to those young players," he said of Gray and Vasquez.

Tucumcari's softball season will extend almost a month past the end of the school year. But Oglesby expressed optimism his players would stick with it into the early summer.

"I talked to them about that in practice," he said. "'If you're committed to something, you've got to stay committed.' And they seem committed, and there's a lot of love for softball. I think that everyone here now will be here through the season."


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