Natalia Softball set for new leadership

From left to right are Natalia softball coaches Tiffany Balencia, Jeff Terry, and Tara Cortinas.

There have been a number of talented individuals take to the softball diamond in Natalia dating back to the start of the program in 1992-1993. Out of the large number of athletes, only four former Lady Mustangs attended college and played for four complete years before graduating with a degree.
One of those four, wore #5 on the mound for the Natalia Lady Mustangs before graduating HS in 2005. She was apart of four straight playoff teams as she saw her senior season come to an end in the Area Round of the Playoffs in Weimar vs state ranked Rogers.
Following high school, she signed with Schreiner University where she played four straight years before completing her degree.
Fast-forward to 2020, Coach Tara “Gonzales” Cortinas will join the softball coaching ranks for the second time during her tenure in Natalia, this time as the Head Coach of the program.
Joining Tara will be another former Lady Mustang who was a starter and teammate of hers, Tiffany “Mercurio” Balencia as well as Coach Jeff Terry who most recently served as the Head Baseball coach in Natalia.
“It is with great excitement and pride I begin my head coaching career in my hometown alongside coaches Tiffany Balencia and Jeff Terry,” Cortinas said. “Balencia, my former teammate bleeds blue and breathes softball as I do. We are so excited for her role in developing our athletes with her dedication and wealth of knowledge. Terry also brings head coaching experience to the table as well as knowledge of the game and the willingness to do what’s best for our program.”
Natalia Softball Outlook
Last Friday morning, 18 Lady Mustangs attended day one of practice as they expect around 32 total athletes out once basketball concludes this season.
A season ago, Natalia wrapped up their playoff run in the Area Playoffs vs state ranked Bishop, finishing with a 28-9 overall record and an 8-1 mark as Co-District Champions along with Jourdanton.
Natalia will return plenty of familiar faces to the team this season including the following athletes many of which were starters: Gabryelle Contreras (Sr), Biviana Figueroa (Sr), Bryanna Perez (Sr), Dezarae Perez (Sr), Gabrielle Santoya (Sr), Jimena Figueroa (Jr), Kaelyn Lara (Jr), Trista Vera (Jr), Tatyana Alvarado (Soph), Gabrielle Munoz (Soph) and Abigayle Woodson (Soph).
“One thing I am sure of is that we are in this together and will work tirelessly for our girls,” Cortinas said. “Our goal this season is to do things better than they have ever been done before through trust, accountability and a championship culture. The expectations are high and the best thing about it is that the players have set them. They are choosing to rise to the standards and they understand and believe that you get what you work for.”
A season ago, the season came to a disappointing end as injuries and a few other set-backs resulted in tough back-to-back losses to Bishop in the playoffs leaving a less than desired taste in the mouth’s of these talented athletes.
“It has been evident through their preparation through the off-season as well as getting after it the first two days of practice, they want to accomplish these goals,” Cortinas said. “Their competitive mentality will be our strength and we are preparing to have an aggressive style of play, a high standard of behavior on and off the field and we will take care of each other through the good and the bad.”
The best thing about this squad, is they never truly reached full potential a season ago on a consistent basis and will have tons of talent around the field led by Sophomore pitcher Woodson on the mound and Senior College Bound Biviana Figueroa behind the plate. Natalia should be pretty solid defensively and will be potent offensively.
Looking at the 2020 Schedule
Natalia once again, will have a very challenging and competitive schedule which does not shy away from battling talented teams. Scrimmage action will begin this Saturday, as the girls in blue welcome Carrizo Springs to town for scrimmage action set to begin at 9:00 a.m.
On Monday, February 3rd Natalia will travel to Pearsall to face the Lady Mavs and the Uvalde Lobos at 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. in scrimmage play.
Things will continue with scrimmages vs. Kerrville Tivy, Poth, as well as a fun event in New Braunfels on Saturday, February 15th where Natalia will battle three traditionally tough programs in NB Canyon, LaVernia and Incarnate Word.
The season opener is set for Monday, February 17th at home vs Orange Grove in what is expected to be a great re-match from a frustrating game a season ago on the road.
Other non-district battles include dates with Hondo, Boerne High, defending 1A State Champion D’Hanis, Pearsall and LaVernia.
This seasons tourney action will include Somerset, Jourdanton and Seguin.
Of course, 30-3A will be the same once again this season as Natalia and Jourdanton should battle for the district title until someone proves otherwise. Other teams include Lytle, Cotulla and Dilley.
“We have never seen a better support system than we have thus far from our parents, admin and community,” Cortinas said. “They are willing to go above and beyond to take care of our girls and I strongly believe that their ongoing support will help us be the best team we can be.”
Year in and year out Natalia is one of the best 3A programs in Region IV and the State of Texas and this year will be no different. Get ready to go out and support Coach Cortinas and the Natalia Lady Mustangs. It will be a fun year with plenty of exciting games.
Writer’s Notes: The three other Lady Mustangs to play college for four years and graduate college with a degree include Arica Rodriguez (Former Coach at Southeastern Louisiana following playing two seasons at San Jacinto Jr. College where she won numerous accolades including National Jr. College Player of the Year before playing two seasons at Div.I Southeastern Louisiana. Currently Director of Fields Coordinator for the same University.
Charlene Castro (Former All-State 4 year starter at Natalia played four years at Southeastern Louisiana where she won numerous accolades)
Sumer Woodson (Another high school stand-out who played college for Coastal Bend before wrapping up playing two years for Texas A&M International in Laredo before graduating this past year).
By Eric Smith
Staff Writer