CORVALLIS — Friday’s state championship game might have meant a little more to Petra Payne than the rest of the Mustangs. Each girl on the team battled the length of her high school career for a shot at a state title that Heppner finally got this week.
Payne’s journey with Heppner started 15 years ago.
Payne was a senior in high school when her family moved to Heppner from Nysaa, a school that had no spring softball.
So Juan Elguezabal did. The former baseball coach turned his attention to getting softball started for the Mustangs, eventually bringing in Ione to help fill out the team. The squad wasn’t great the first year, Payne said, but after she’d graduated the 2000 group made it to the state playoffs.
Elguezabal never got to see the Mustangs advance farther than that first round, though. He died of melanoma later that year.
“I’ve always wanted to coach and he surrounded us with great coaches in Nyssa and in Heppner,” said Payne, who now coaches Heppner and helped bring home the first state softball title to the school. Heppner beat Glendale 4-2 on Friday.
When the Mustangs clinched the state title in Corvallis from Oregon State University’s Softball Complex, the championship was a symbol of everything that the Elguezabal family worked hard to establish, Juan’s widow Mary Anne Elguezabal said.
“My husband loved baseball and softball,” Mary Anne said. “I’m sure he’s watching today.”
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.