COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: UTPB softball honors seniors in final home game

UTPB first baseman Choco Munoz (4) and second baseman Abby Hernandez (20) move to make plays during a Lone Star Conference game against UT Tyler on March 12 at UTPB Field. (TONY VENEGAS|ODESSA AMERICAN)

The UTPB softball team was able to close out its home schedule on a good note as the Falcons defeated Cameron 3-0 in the second game of a doubleheader Sunday at UTPB Field.

UTPB’s Choco Munoz (4) sets in and waits for a pitch during a Lone Star Conference softball game against UT Tyler March 12 at UTPB Field.
(Tony Venegas | Odessa American)

It was a special moment for seven Falcons seniors who were playing at home for the final time in their careers.

During a virtual press conference Monday, three of those seniors took some time to reflect on what that meant to them.

“It was just amazing to play along with my fellow seniors and seeing them make great plays and being a part of that with our families being there to support us,” catcher Nayeli Diaz said. “It was a great game that we all played together. It was an ending that we definitely needed on that field.”

The Falcons weathered a lot of challenges, dating back to last year when the 2020 season was canceled before it was completed due to COVID-19. Senior utility Choco Munoz said that the one of the biggest lessons she learned from head coach Tiala Tagaloa was being able to adapt to changing situations.

“Coach T talks a lot about being able to pivot,” Munoz said. “I feel like this team has made a lot of adjustments not only on the field but off it and I feel like we’ve done a good job of that thus far.”

Munoz also added that she was going to miss being a part of the family atmosphere that the team provided for her.

Abby Hernandez echoed her teammate’s sentiment.

“They’re like home away from home,” Hernandez said. “I’m going to miss the bus rides and traveling out of town because I feel like that’s where we bond the most.”

Seeing the victory come together the way it did was also something that pleased Tagaloa.

Mentioning that it had been a frustrating year for the team, she wanted to make sure that the last home game was something that the team could look back on in a good way.

“Before the second game, I said that all the seniors are starting and everyone else be ready because we’re not going to lose this game. We’re going to win it for them,” she said. “It was spectacular. I think everyone just chipped in and did their piece and no one was trying to be the hero.

“I think everyone just came in and stepped up to the opportunity that presented itself.”

The Falcons are on the road for a pair of Lone Star Conference doubleheaders starting at 5 p.m. Friday at West Texas A&M in Canyon followed by a matchup at noon Sunday at Eastern New Mexico in Portales.

>> KEY SERIES: The UTPB baseball team is looking to bounce back after a difficult road series this past weekend at St. Mary’s in San Antonio. The Falcons were swept by the Rattlers and outscored 49-20 over the course of the three games.

Head coach Brian Reinke said that that there weren’t many positives to take from the recent series other than the batters at the top of the order continuing to produce.

“It was a struggle from inning one of the first game,” Reinke said. “We just had for whatever reason guys that had been pitching well really struggled and that surprised me a little bit.”

UTPB will try to get things turned around and keep its postseason hopes alive this weekend against Lubbock Christian. The series begins with a 3 p.m. game Friday at Roden Field.

The top eight teams advance to the conference tournament and Lubbock Christian is currently in the eighth spot heading into the weekend. UTPB is 10th. Reinke added that he believes that the upcoming series will be pretty evenly-matched.

“I think it’s going to be a lot like playing ourselves,” Reinke said. “We just have to control what we can within our own team and be able to throw strikes and hit a little bit this weekend.”

The upcoming series was scheduled to be the final home series for the Falcons but Reinke added that he was in the process of finalizing a with St. Edward’s, with was originally set for Feb. 19 and 20 but was postponed due to the winter storm. The tentative dates for the series are May 7 and 8 at Roden Field.

>> OPENING ROUND: The UTPB men’s golf team completed its first round at the Lone Star Conference Men’s Golf Championships at Tierra Verde Golf Club in Arlington. The Falcons finished the day with a team total of 299 with Troy Lopez leading the way with a 1-over-par 73.

Parker Doan shot 74 while Connor Benjamin and all-conference honorable mention Colton Hilburn both finished with rounds of 76. Phillip Hurtado rounded out the team with a 77.

The tournament continues Tuesday and Wednesday from the same venue.

>> FINAL MATCHES: The UTPB men’s and women’s tennis teams are hosting their final conference matches of the regular season. The Falcons will host Cameron starting at 9 a.m. Friday and follow that with a matchup against Arkansas Fort Smith Saturday from the Bush Center in Midland.

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas