Softball: Othello's Ochoa picks up 400th and 401st career victories

March 27, 2014 

Mike Jensen first met Rudy Ochoa when Jensen was picking his daughter up from softball practice nearly a quarter century ago.

Jensen pulled up to pick up his daughter Venessia and noticed a few girls struggling to hit, so he asked if he could help out. He worked with three of them, showing them how to hit the ball, and then he went back to his pickup truck in the parking lot.

A few minutes later, Ochoa was knocking on his window and asking if Jensen would come back the next day and help out again.

The pair have been coaching together ever since, from Little League to summer leagues to the Othello High School team. And in the process they have been wildly successful.

With Othello’s 12-0 victory over Southridge on Thursday, Ochoa — and Jensen by extension — earned his 400th career victory.

“It feels good to reach that,” said Ochoa, who was elected into the Washington High Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. “When I first started, I didn’t think there was any way that I could get that high.”

This is his 18th season as the Huskies’ coach, helping them transition from slowpitch to fastpitch and turning them into a state powerhouse in the process.

“It’s great,” said Ciria Triplett, Ochoa’s oldest daughter. “This is what he lives for. He could’ve stopped a long time ago when (his kids) were all done, but he does it because he loves the game. He loves softball and being around the athletes. It is great and well deserved.”

Othello has won three state titles during the 18 years, capturing crowns in 1999, 2002 and 2008 and taking second in 2000, 2005 and 2006.

“He demands success and he puts in the time,” said Jenny McCourtie, who played for Ochoa from 1999-2002, and is an assistant at Connell. “I played with both of his daughters (Ciria and Cynthia) and we went all over the United States. All summer, we were playing competitive softball somewhere.

“He is definitely very deserving of any award that he has coming to him.”

The understated Ochoa refused to single out any teams or players as his favorites.

“There have been so many good girls and athletes come through here, it is hard to put a finger on anything,” said Ochoa, who also gave credit to his wife Gloria for supporting him through the years.

He and Jensen attempted to teach their athletes not just about the sport of softball, but also life lessons.

“We don’t really dwell on records, they aren’t really important,” Jensen said. “The biggest thing is making sure the girls know how to play the game and do it right. Our whole philosophy is that when they get done, they need to give back to their families, their town or whatever. They should know how to do it by our example.”

Plenty of former Othello players have done so, including three of Ochoa’s own children.

His oldest daughter Ciaria has coached all over and is now the head softball coach at NCAA Division II Newberry State in South Carolina. Adrian Ochoa is the head coach at Columbia Basin College and Rudy Ochoa II is a volunteer assistant with his dad at Othello. The other Ochoa offspring — Cynthia — doesn’t coach, but she did play throughout high school and college.

“Every day I’m still learning more about the sport,” Ochoa II said, “ and how to coach and about how to work with kids and become a better example for them.”

Connell’s McCourtie agreed.

“Rudy always focuses on hard work, being a good citizen and respecting the game,” she said. “He has taught us a lot of life lessons and that has made me a better coach.”

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