When she steps up to the plate, her coach, Richard Tressler, starts to backpedal in the third-base coaching box. When she takes to the mound, the Lady Cougar infielders have to dance in place to keep busy during a strikeout parade.

As Iliana Hinojosa’s junior softball season begins, the all-around star is poised to become the Valley’s best. She was first team All-District last year and after dropping some weight, adding some trick pitches, and arriving in camp with the same marvelous attitude, Hinonosa is ready for more.

“She is simply overpowering, that’s all there is to it,” said Tressler, whose bunch won 25 games last year and started the scrimmage slate with an 8-0 victory at home over McAllen Rowe Saturday morning. “There’s no telling how good she can be.”

With Hinojosa striking out seven in three innings of work, the Lady Coogs had little trouble with Rowe, though they struggled a bit at the plate against a molasses-slow Lady Warrior hurler.

Hinojosa is the type of athlete who comes along once in a 4-year class, but the rest of the North cast is more than solid, as the team seeks to duplicate or surpass 2008’s run to the third round of the playoffs.

From left to right the infield has Vanessa Espinoza, Claire Garcia, Cookie Torresmutt and Cynthia Granado. Espinoza is a speedy senior with a good glove who is working on hitting. Garcia played third last season but steps into replace graduated shortstop Alyssa Granado, now playing college softball at Southwestern in Georgetown, and she’s going to be a star.

Torresmutt, the district defensive MVP last season, is a veteran presence who seems to come up with the big hit at the right time, while Granado moves to first from left field. She made a bunch of fine infield plays at second against Rowe, as Torresmutt was taking the ACT that day.

In the outfield, center fielder Laura Torres is as skilled as they come, and hits line drives in droves. Left fielder Jennifer Kotsur can motor and is also a dangerous bunter; in fact, North collected four bunt hits against Rowe and that will be one of the offensive weapons in the arsenal. Returning in right is steady Anyssa Avila, who is adept at going with the pitch at the dish.

Though the Lady Coogs lost long-time stars and pals Alyssa Granado, Jackie Cantu and Laura Badillo off last year’s squad, newcomers Victoria Cardenas, a catcher, and Annie Badillo, a pitcher-infielder, look ready to contribute. Nikkie Garza and Alyssa Tressler will seek to provide depth for the unit, which will seek to ride the awesome arm and bat of Hinojosa far into the playoffs this season.

“At this point, it’s not so much physical as it is mental,” said Tressler, who has made the Lady Coogs into a postseason regular for the past dozen years. “It’s mental, we’re working on what’s between our ears in the early going.”