It was back on home turf — artificial turf — for Edyn Lopez, a utility player for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs softball team.
UCCS and nine other Division II schools were at the Los Lunas Sports Complex Friday through Sunday for the second annual Southwest Regional Softball Showcase. Despite bitterly cold winds, Lopez couldn’t stop smiling.
“It’s a really good opportunity to see all my family and friends,” said Lopez, a 2021 Los Lunas High School graduate.
Current teammates of Lopez were peppering her with questions.
“They were asking me about it pretty much all week. ‘It’s so cool to have a New Mexico native here to help us out,’” they told Lopez.
Lopez is in her first year with UCCS, transferring after two seasons at Eastern New Mexico University.
“From day one, she fit into the culture,” said Dwight Sanders, UCCS coach. “She shows up and works hard every day. She’s the definition of resilient.”
Lopez and Alex Tenorio, also from Los Lunas, were two of about 30 players from New Mexico who took part in the Showcase. Tenorio had three hits for Fort Lewis in the Skyhawks’ 5-2 upset of No. 4 West Texas A&M.
The field included Western New Mexico, ENMU, New Mexico Highlands, UCCS, CSU-Pueblo, FLC, Adams State, UT-Permian Basin, West Texas A&M and Simon Fraser University from British Columbia, Canada. Each team played four or five games over the weekend to begin the season.
Despite the cold winds, Jorge Venagas, village of Los Lunas sports coordinator, said the Showcase was a success again, with good crowds turning out.
Still, there is no guarantee the event will return. Ashley Hickman, coach of host Western New Mexico, said more sponsorship is needed.
“There’s no way that we could keep coming back without help in terms of that,” Hickman said of sponsorship dollars. “We want to make it affordable for all these college teams to come play.”
Hickman adds she is appreciative of the quality of the fields and the support from the village of Los Lunas, which donates the use of the facility; however, expenses, such as team entries, umpire fees and staffing, are costly.
Hickman is hoping for local businesses to get involved by purchasing sponsorship banners or mentions on ProView Networks’ streaming of the games. The sponsorship effort has been spearheaded by Jeff Young, WNMU assistant coach and former head coach at Valencia High School. For more information, contact [email protected].
Lopez and Sanders, from UCCS, are among those expressing support.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the community and everyone to come out and see some college softball,” Lopez said.
“I love the village of Los Lunas,” said Sanders, who recruits in the area. “I hope they keep it here. It’s a good place for softball to grow and good for the kids.”
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.