SAN JUAN — Renovations to PSJA High’s Josefina S. Ayala Softball Field are off and running with a chance to finish ahead of schedule, a silver lining to the sports shutdown that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortened softball season allowed construction to get under way early and helped expedite the renovation process. It’s the final step of a widespread facility facelift for PSJA ISD that included upgrades to the softball fields at PSJA High, PSJA Memorial and PSJA North as well as the baseball fields at PSJA High, PSJA North and PSJA Southwest.

“It’s very exciting to see all the stuff being done to the field. It’s been in the process for about two or three years there have been talks of doing something like this,” PSJA High head softball coach Eric Madera said. “It’s exciting when your district is behind you, and it shows the kids how you’re supporting them and backing them up with all these facilities. I think it’s shown with the performances our kids have done in all sports and everything that they’re giving them here at PSJA.”

The upgrades across the district’s field renovation projects include new stone backstops, netting and bleachers, while the baseball fields received revamped turf infields and fresh sod outfields with new sprinkler systems.

The softball fields at PSJA High, PSJA Memorial and PSJA North, however, will get brand new turf surfaces across the whole field, which was a point of emphasis for Madera and the district’s other coaches. Renovations at PSJA High could now finish as early as mid-July.

“Down here in South Texas given the wind and rain and that stuff, we wanted to make sure we were able to play and practice all the time,” he said. “I know Dr. (Daniel) King isn’t with us anymore, but he wanted to do all of this stuff with athletics and this was a project that they did a long time ago for the fields. At PSJA, we always want to be the best and look better and play better, so I think those were the things they were trying to do.”

It’s a bright spot for the Bears, whose red hot start to the season was cut short when the University Interscholastic League originally suspended and later canceled all spring sports due to public health concerns and school closures.

PSJA High quickly put the rest of the Valley on alert with its strong showings week in and week out in tournament play and its overwhelming display of power at the plate.

The Bears went on an undefeated run through the Mission Fastpitch Tournament, earning a season-defining victory over state-ranked Edinburg Vela in the tournament’s final game. PSJA High then clubbed its way to the championship game of the Laredo Border Olympics, notching the best finish there in school history.

“Man, that was tough. We were doing very well and the girls were about to take off,” Madera said. “We knew we had the talent with all the seniors that we had and all the underclassmen.”

The Bears put on a show in their first appearance in the Seguin Tournament as well, topping a veteran-heavy Calallen squad that finished as the 2019 state tournament runners-up in Class 5A. PSJA High won its first two district games and ascended to the No. 12 overall ranking in the Texas Girls Coaches Association 6A softball poll when its season abruptly came to a halt.

The Bears, however, made their mark during a shortened season with frequent bombs and highlights of moonshots dominating Twitter.

“We were rolling. We had 19 home runs in 15 games and it was crazy the stats we were putting up,” Madera said. “It was very disappointing for the girls that we had to shut down there. It was going to be a year to remember.”