Expectations are “pretty high,” for longtime Belen baseball coach Tom Wisneski. Make that sky high.  

Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Belen Eagles have been spending time in the batting cage, preparing for the upcoming baseball season and a deep run into the state playoffs.

“Our expectation is to be in the state championship game,” Wisneski proclaims. “We have some horses,” after losing only two starters from last year’s team that posted a 20-8 record and reached the 4A quarterfinals. “ 

Those “horses” include all-staters Brysen Soiles, catcher, and Angel Garcia, first base/pitcher, who bring power to the middle of the lineup.   

“Scoring runs, pushing runs across,” will be the strength of the team, according to Soiles. “There’s no weak spot in our lineup like there’s been in years’ past.”  

Christian Wilson returns as the Eagles’ top pitcher, but after that “pitching is a work in progress,” Wisneski said. “We’ve got some young guys who showed some really good progress.”   

Brothers Damian and Diego Avila could also debut on the mound.  

“Two new guys that no one’s ever seen,” according to Wisneski.  

Elsewhere, Jesse Aragon, Frankie Roche and Ethan Thomas comprise a solid outfield, with the Avila’s helping to secure the middle infield.  

Diego Avila missed last season with a knee injury and is expected to join the team after wrestling season.  

“I think Diego is as hungry as ever to get back at it,” Wisneski believes.  

“Hungry” is a word heard often around the players after losing to Artesia in the playoffs. 

“We went in there with an inexperienced team and now we’re coming back,” to win a title, Soiles believes.   

BHS plays in 4A’s toughest district, along with Valencia, Highland, Grants and St. Pius, the state champion.  

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said Wisneski. “How perfect to get ready for the state playoffs?”  


The success of the Valencia Jaguars, who were 9-16 last season, could very well hinge on how quickly a young group develops and fills in the gaps around a handful of experienced teammates.   

After missing the postseason in 2023, Valencia Jaguars believe they have the talent to make a run at the state playoffs.

“We’re going to be pretty young this year, but we had a really good fall season,” said coach Carlos Ramirez about the 16-game fall schedule. “It helped prepare the guys — helped them mature. I think we’ll be ready to go.”  

VHS will need strong results from five seniors, all pitchers who add depth to the rotation. That includes Jacob Apodaca and Benjamin Ramirez, the coaches’ brother.   

The younger Ramirez admits “it’s kind of a rebuilding year,” and that the early part of the season will be spent “building chemistry with the team and bonding again.”  

Benjamin Ramirez says the infield is solid and that he and Apodaca will be a tough one-two pitching combination.   

Coach Ramirez says freshman Pryce Henry will anchor the infield and catcher Zaylon Zamora takes charge on the diamond.  

“We’re going to look for (Zamora’s) leadership on the field and just kind of controlling the pitch game.”   

When it comes to pushing runs across the plate, “I think we’re going to be able to swing it this year — I think we’re going to score a lot of runs.”  

Ramirez says to compete in district 5-4A, it will be critical to “keep the mistakes down, keep the walks down.”  

If Valencia does that, Ramirez expects to “make some noise in district, secure one of the playoff seeds and go make a run at it.” 

Los Lunas 

“Reloading” and not “rebuilding” is the hope for Los Lunas coach Paul Cieremans after the Tigers lost a handful of seniors from a team that went 16-11 and advanced to the state 5A playoffs.    

Stretching and working on the fundamentals have been a priority for the Los Lunas Tigers who look to “reload” this season after losing several key players.

LLHS will be counting on several of veterans and “a bunch of young talent,” according to Cieremans.  

“We’ve had a great off season, working really hard to, hopefully, get to where we need to be.”   

Among those Los Lunas needs to replace are top pitcher Ryan Castillo, who is hurling for the University of New Mexico and pitcher/catcher Paul Cieremans, the coach’s son.    

“We’ve got a couple of young arms that are lively,” Cieremans said optimistically, adding that several veterans, such as Matthew Castillo, Isaiah Barela, Fabian Trujillo and Kaiden Reese, may break into the rotation.  

Trujillo, well-known to local football fans, will lead off again and roam centerfield.  

“He tracks everything down,” Cieremans said about the speedy senior.   

“It makes me a little nervous,” Trujillo said about inexperience on the mound. “At the same time, I feel like we have a lot more pitchers this year, not just one guy.”  

Trujillo says defense and contact hitting will be key, and “We’re going to be a lot more aggressive this year on the base path, more aggressive everywhere.”  

The Tigers probably won’t have as much “pop” in the lineup, but Cieremans believes Los Lunas will still produce offensively. “These guys are fast. They hit the ball hard. If we spray it around the field and manufacture some runs, I feel we’ll be in every game we play.” 

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.