Hanging on the centerfield fence behind the Alice Lady Coyote softball field is a tribute to Ariel Lichtenberger.
Everyone one of the girls on the Alice varsity softball team has their name printed on giant softball cutouts around the outfield fence. It’s been more than a decade since Lichtenberger played here, but her name hangs over centerfield, the same centerfield fence that she hit towering home runs over back in her high school days.
See, to the softball team, coaches and to the Alice community, Lichtenberger’s spirit, her fight, grace and kindness won’t soon be forgotten.
Lichtenberger died Wednesday morning surrounded by family in her home. She passed away nearly two years after being diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. She was working full-time at FESCO and planning her wedding at the time she began having headaches and the cancer was discovered.
To those who knew her, she’ll be remembered as a generous soul and a tremendous athlete. The tribute in her memory at the Alice softball field was set up by Lady Coyote softball coach Janay Gonzalez, who was Lichtenberger's teammate in high school and later at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Gonzalez said Lichtenberger will be remembered before the Lady Coyotes' game Friday night.
Lichtenberger was one of the best female athletes to come out of Alice High School. By the time she left Alice High School, Lichtenberger had more than made her mark on the Lady Coyote athletic program. In fact, she was the basketball and softball team MVP every year that she played.
As a junior, she helped the Lady Coyotes to the 2005 Region IV basketball tournament at the University of St. Mary’s in San Antonio.
In softball, Ariel led the Lady Coyotes in batting in each season that she played. She was then one of the first girls from the program to play college softball.
Lichtenberger “walked on” to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville softball team as a freshman. Like she did in Alice, she quickly settled in and became a cornerstone of the program. She started in a handful of games in different roles as a freshman in 2007 and then had a break-out season in 2008 starting at first base in 55 of the team’s 56 games. In 2009, she was back at shortstop and earned Lone Star Conference honors. She was among the team’s top hitters that season with a .306 batting average. Lichtenberger finished out her college career playing shortstop for the Javelinas. As a senior, she again won All-Lone Star Conference honors. She hit .281 with 10 doubles, seven homers and a .541 slugging percentage. She set a school record earlier in the season when she hit a home run in five consecutive games.
Alice High School honored Lichtenberger by inducting her to the Alice Coyote Athletic Hall of Honor in 2016.
She was preceded in death by her paternal grandfather, Nick Lichtenberger and maternal grandfather, Jose Rios Sr.
Survivors include her fiancé, Javier Navarro of Alice, Texas; parents, Rick and Anna Lee Lichtenberger of Alice, Texas; grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Ruben Jones of Alice, Texas; step grandmother, Elma Lichtenberger of Freer, Texas; sister, Nicole (Albert) Lopez of Alice, Texas; one nephew, Cameron Lopez and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Visitation will be held from 5 till 9 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2018 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church with a Rosary being recited at 7 pm. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Services will conclude in the church.