Cortez’s instant impact at Edinburg High nets Player of the Year honors

Edinburg High junior Erika Cortez is The Monitor’s All-Area Softball Player of the Year. 

EDINBURG — Last August, Erika Cortez participated in USA Elite Select’s second annual Select 30 All-American Camp in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The three-day event hosted the best softball players from 40 states in five different age groups: the Class of 2018-19, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

The first two days are an evaluation period for the near hundred players in Cortez’s age group. Athletes train with current softball players from LSU as well as professionals in the National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series on the fundamentals of the game. If the camp’s Select 30 task force deems a player good enough, she will be one of 30 girls to play in Day Three’s exhibition games.

Cortez made the top 30, earning All-American camp status.

“It’s a big thing, to be selected from a group of that many girls,” Cortez said. “They only pick the best players to put on those two teams. I couldn’t believe it. After going to the camp the year before, I’m a two-time All-American now.”

Because the camp took place right before the school year began, Cortez missed the first day of her junior year at Edinburg High.

“I was so worried,” Cortez said. “The first day’s a big day, especially at a new school. Once I got there, I was nervous. I didn’t know anybody.”

Cortez came to EHS from San Benito. In 2016, she took the Valley by storm. Cortez was a perfect 12-0 in the circle with a 1.77 earned run average while slugging nine home runs as a freshman.

Her Edinburg High experience turned once she took part in the softball athletic period.

“When eighth period came, I started talking with my teammates, and everything got easier,” Cortez said. “I made friends, and I loved every part of it. The second day of school was a lot better than the first.”

The addition of Cortez made what was already a stacked Bobcats team even better. EHS featured outfielder Katy Truitt, a verbal commit to Lehigh University; shortstop Maya Zavala, a verbal commit to Texas Southern and outfielder/pitcher Amber Reyes, who is set to play for Texas A&M-Kingsville next year.

Cortez herself is a verbal commit to the University of Texas at San Antonio and proved as much in her first year wearing red, white and blue. She went 15-4 with a 1.74 ERA, struck out 132 batters and walked only 26 in 121 innings. Cortez also hit .541 with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and a team-high 64 RBIs to earn The Monitor’s All-Area Player of the Year honors.

“The players I play with (at EHS) are no different than the ones I play with during summer ball,” Cortez said. “I go to Colorado, I got to California, and a lot of those girls will play DI or on the college level. They’re tough, but they make me better as a player and as an individual. I love girls like Amber (Reyes) and Katy (Truitt), because they’re my friends. It’s better that they are on my team, because that makes me feel a whole lot better.”

Ramon Arciba now has the privilege of coaching the All-Area Player of the Year for the second time in two seasons as Bobcats coach. Reyes was The Monitor’s All-Area Player of the Year in 2017.

“Erika puts in the work, day in and day out, especially outside of school,” Arciba said. “That’s not easy to do. For a player that plays year-round and stays hungry year-round, that is something unique. She’s got a lot of fire, a lot of energy. When she’s here with us, I try to help her out as much as possible with certain pitches. She’ll ask if I can help her with why pitches aren’t working in certain situations. ‘What can I do better?’ She’s always looking to get better. As a coach, what else could you ask for?”

Despite a powerful offense, experienced starting pitching and a district championship, the Bobcats (28-8, 13-1) dropped two of three against Eagle Pass in the area round of the playoffs. The loss wasn’t made any easier when District 31-6A’s No. 2 team and Edinburg High’s crosstown rival Edinburg Vela went to the UIL regional semifinals for the first time in its history.

Vela and Edinburg North are now the two schools in the ultracompetitive city of Edinburg to advance four rounds deep in the playoffs since 2016. In the eyes of Cortez and the program, 2019 will be a year for Edinburg High to complete some unfinished business.

“For me and some of the girls on this team, we have to give it our all,” Cortez said. “It’ll be our senior year, and we have to make it a memorable one. We want to make a difference at EHS and in the Valley. Seeing how Vela did this year was big. Our hope was that we could make the state tournament this year, but we fell short. I need to work harder, and I know my teammates will also work harder.”