Last weekend, Heritage Academy Maricopa and Heritage Academy Laveen competed in the D1/2 Junior High Softball State Championship. After an exciting game, Heritage Academy Laveen celebrated as our 2021 State Champions. We spoke to the winning team’s coach, Steve LaDrigue, to get a run down of the championship game. This is his 5th season coaching Junior High at Heritage Academy Laveen. His team is a two time state runner up but this is their first State title under his lead.
How the season went
“It was a great season,” he said. “We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to play at the start of the season with so much in question with youth sports. I am very happy that the CAA allowed our kids to play and give them an opportunity to compete and create memories that will last some of them a lifetime!”
As far as the softball season went, the team had their ups and downs like any season. To some, the regular season may seem like it was full of success from a record standpoint, but the Heroes had some good learning moments during the regular season that helped them prepare for the state playoffs.
We knew we had a special team this year at the start of the season. They got better and better and played well when it really counted. I am very proud of them!
Challenges faced during COVID
To be honest, we didn’t have any major challenges and didn’t have anyone that became sick during the season. In that aspect we were lucky. We were just happy we had the opportunity to play.
What playing in the CAA means to his athletes
Coach LaDrigue said it means a lot to the girls. They are all grateful that the CAA gave them the opportunity to play this season. For the last 5 years they have been able to play in the CAA playoffs and that has always been a great opportunity and a great memory for the athletes and their families.
Standout athletes during the season
“To be honest I can spotlight all 11 girls. Each athlete contributed to this season and improved from the start to the finish,” he said.
One athlete I have to spotlight is our #1 pitcher and state championship “player of the game” Kristy Mendoza. She has such a great attitude and is just a great athlete to coach. She pitched 31 innings and gave up 4 hits and 3 earned runs with 69 strikeouts.
Another standout he mentioned is Ciara Madrid who caught almost every inning for Kristy. Kristy couldn’t have her success without a catcher to work with. Ciara has great energy and was one of the leaders of the team this season.
Recap of the Championship Game
Our opponent Heritage Academy Maricopa did a great job throughout the day fighting their way to the championship. We thought it was cool that we would get to play another heritage team but we were ready for whoever showed up. In the bottom of the 1st first inning we just came out hitting, scoring 6 runs in the 1st inning. Ebanie Santana had a grand slam in the 1st inning. She had a terrific game with a triple and home run and 6 RBIs that game. We went on to win 19-0. Kristy Mendoza pitched 4 innings, had a no-hitter and struck out 7.
A piece of advice to his athletes
Your best effort and your best attitude is everything. It is more important than talent.
Heritage Academy Laveen has 4 girls graduating this year from the team. They will have 7 girls returning and coach LaDrigue knows a few talented softball players are registered to attend the school next year. “I’m looking forward to making a playoff run next season,” he said.
Thank you to the CAA and everyone who made this season possible. We have created some great memories and learned some great lessons because you have made it possible for these kids to play. See you next year.
A big congratulations also goes to Legacy Traditional East Surprise, for winning the title of D3 Junior High Softball State Champions 2021.