College softball: Luis, Vallejo embracing hometown opportunity


Jimena Luis and Judy Vallejo have been close friends since they were little kids. From playing sports to hanging out throughout their life, the two have been inseparable.

They went through all four years of softball playing for Centralia High School together, culminating in a trip to the Class 2A state tournament.

Neither of them wanted to leave Lewis County.

“I like this community,” Luis said. “It is comfortable.”

Now, they represent their hometown college.

Luis and Vallejo are the lone players on Centralia College’s softball team that are from Centralia. While there are a handful of players from the surrounding area, those two are representatives of the city.
They understand the importance behind it.

“They’ve seen you from the bottom and now you’re becoming your own person,” Vallejo said. “They’re able to continue to watch you.”

It has been a season of hardships for the Trailblazers.

Before fall contests started, Centralia’s previous head coach and the primary recruiter of the roster – Katie Aden – left the program. Kevin Slorey, who was the head coach for multiple years before Aden replaced him in 2018, came back.

The Trailblazers sit at 5-19 overall and 2-12 in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
“It was a really, really good thing,” Vallejo said. “It was kind of surprising, but we still managed to make something of it. At the end of the day, it was a good choice.”

As Slorey evaluates his players, Luis and Vallejo have stood out from the get-go.

The duo make up the corner infield spots in Centralia’s defensive alignment and bat third and fifth in the lineup.

More than that, Slorey sees two common traits in their body of work.

“They’ve got the heart and desire,” Slorey said. “You don’t have to worry about them. They’re going to go out and work hard all the time. When you’ve been coaching for a while, it is really easy to identify what you expect from the players.”

Luis has been a starter for every game and recorded an RBI single in the Trailblazers second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon against Mt. Hood.

The freshman has one of the best gloves on the roster at first, sitting at a fielding percentage of 97.2 with 87 putouts. Slorey calls her “a vacuum” defensively.

“It is a lot of practice, you’re always putting in the work so that’s different from high school,” Luis said. “You (have) to make sure your time management is good.”

Vallejo was candid about being academically ineligible for the first 20-plus games of the spring season. She didn’t have enough credits to play, so she had to sit out.

Still, Slorey knew from the fall season and in practice what he had in the former all-area standout.

“She is probably the hardest worker we have on the field,” he said. “What you do in practice is what you’re going to do in the game.”

Over the last four games, Vallejo has made her coach look smart.

She’s recorded five hits in nine at-bats with a double and an RBI. In getting swept in a non-conference doubleheader against Mt. Hood, the third baseman had to leave the nightcap and had ice on her finger.

She stated afterwards she’ll be good to go for a weekend conference twinbill at Grays Harbor.

“It feels nice to be back out here helping my teammates,” Vallejo said. “I practiced like I played. I struggled my first at-bat, but I got it.”

Slorey wants his future teams to have a heavy flavor of local talent and is already putting plans in place for that to happen as early as next year.

He views it as vital for the success of the program.

“To have them two, is pretty awesome,” Slorey said. “They’re both great kids. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

While Luis and Vallejo are a month away from finishing their freshmen season, they are starting to think about what softball looks like in the future.

Vallejo said she is leaning on not playing softball at a four-year college and Luis feels it would have to be the right opportunity for her.

“We’ll see,” Luis said.

Regardless of what the future holds, Luis and Vallejo are taking in what playing college softball in their hometown means for them, their families and the Centralia community.

“It is a pretty exciting process,” Vallejo said. “It just feels like home. I look forward to coming to practice and playing games. That’s what makes me want to play.”