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EPISODE #76
CATHOLIC SPORTS VIEW: GUESTS INCLUDE ERIC BORBA, BRETT KAY AND TOM TICE

Host Bob Gibson interviews coaches and players throughout the various Catholic high schools in Orange County.

Today’s guests include:

  • Eric Borba (Baseball coach at Orange Lutheran High School);
  • Brett Kay (Baseball coach at J Serra High School)
  • Tom Tice (Softball coach at Rosary Academy)

 

Originally broadcast on 2/23/19

GRAND SLAMMERS

They’re sprinkled on softball rosters from coast to coast, making their college teams better with their presence and performance, just the way they did in the Trinity League. 

Noelle Hee drove in runs in her first two at-bats with the University of Washington this season, then hit a grand slam the next day. The freshman from Orange Lutheran had four home runs overall through April 7, helping the Huskies emerge as the top-ranked team in the nation. 

Rosary graduate Kolby Romaine is one of the top players for Missouri. She hit .325 with 21 RBIs as a sophomore last season, helping the Tigers to their school-record 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. 

An early highlight this season was Romaine’s three-run double in a 7-3 win against Mississippi State during a three-game series to open SEC play. 

Missouri is scheduled to play at South Carolina in a conference series April 20-22, and the Gamecocks are led by Orange Lutheran grad Mackenzie Boesel, a sophomore second baseman who was hitting .372 through the first 38 games this season, second-best on the team, with four home runs and 11 doubles. 

Boesel was one of the best players for South Carolina last season as well, leading the Gamecocks in hitting (.341), home runs (10), and RBI (41) while starting every game. South Carolina reached the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year. 

As is the case with many athletes from the Trinity League, Boesel has been better than advertised. 

“Her transition to Division I softball was really smooth,” head coach Beverly Smith said on the team web site. “She was a kid that I knew had really good bat control. When I was recruiting her, she was always a tough out. I knew she would be an everyday player for us. Initially, I thought she would be a good hitter near the bottom of the lineup because she would be a bat-for-average kid. What surprised me the most was the power.” 

Boesel was surprised with her performance last season as well. After all, she had just three home runs as a senior at Orange Lutheran in 2016. 

“I always have high expectations for myself to perform well,” Boesel said. “I definitely exceeded my expectations, especially in the home run department. I’m not typically a home run hitter, but I always expect to perform well and help out my team.” 

Another former Trinity League player who’s having a fabulous season is Jenna Cone, a sophomore first baseman at George Washington University in Washington D.C. 

Cone was hitting .440 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs in 32 games through April 5. 

More notably, she won three consecutive Atlantic-10 Player of the Week honors last month, becoming the first player to achieve that distinction in 18 years, and the first in program history. 

Even though Cone is 3,000 miles from home, she has plenty of company on the Colonials.  

Her older sister, Jayme, is a junior pitcher for the George Washington, and sophomore catcher Priscilla Martinez is a graduate of Mater Dei. 

Martinez was hitting .382 through April 5 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 32 games 

Just down the coast at Boston University, Santa Margarita graduate Alex Heinen is also a starting catcher. She was second-team all-Patriot League as a sophomore last season and has significantly improved her offensive numbers this season. 

Through April 1, she was second on the Terriers with a .348 batting and led the team with 40 hits and 26 RBIs.

ATHLETE PROFILE: ANDREA HESTER

When Andrea Hester was younger, her parents had her try the gamut of sports and activities, ranging from dance to basketball to soccer. Through that exposure, she found a love for softball.

“I started playing softball when I was five years old,” says Hester. “My love for softball grew ever since then.”

 

 

 

The Rosary Academy senior has been a four-year varsity player for the Royals, slotting in at both first base and outfield. She enjoys first base because the position allows her to be “constantly in the play.” But she loves the game for the people she’s met.

“The thing that I love about softball is the friendships and relationships that have been formed,” says the 18-year-old. “I know that the coaches I’ve had and the friends that I’ve met I will keep for the rest of my life.”

As a senior leader on the team, Hester values the role of leading underclassmen, and hopes her skill and versatility has set a good example and inspired her teammates.

“Andi combines athletic intensity with sisterly sweetness in a way that really endears her to her teammates,” says Rosary varsity softball head coach, Tom Tice. “She’s fierce on the field, but off it she’s as fun and funny as anyone you’d want to meet. Not many players would lead the team in RBI’s and also be the best dancer.”

Hester admits that her fun spirit can be mired in slumps now and again, and maintaining her positivity has been her biggest challenge in the sport to date.

“It’s hard when you’re in a slump, but you’ve just got to keep on fighting,” says Hester. “You’ve got to get out there and practice. I’ve just learned it’s the best way to deal with it.”

And along with that hard work are the people around her who Hester credits as the reason for her success.

“Working hard will get me to places I never thought I could ever be,” says Hester. “Those people next to me who have helped me throughout the way will sit by me through everything.”

The Yorba Linda resident serves as her Rosary senior class Vice President, as well as a Student Ambassador. Hester also gives back to her community through feeding the homeless and participating in RAD Camp, a summer camp for special needs kids.

Hester will continue her softball career as she heads to Dominican College in New York. There she will study elementary and special education ahead of plans to serve in the Peace Corps. As much as softball has taught her, Hester knows her character has been largely shaped by her parents.

“My dad has taught me to always be positive,” says Hester. “Just keep on pushing, even when life’s got you down. And my mom is the best woman on this earth. She’s taught me to love. Words can’t explain how much they mean to me.”

ATHLETE PROFILE: SARAH MICHAEL

Sarah Michael comes from a long line of softball players, but it wasn’t until the eighth grade that she began seriously playing the sport.

“My family is a very softball-oriented family. My older sisters played,” says Michael. “In eighth grade, I played for my school team. After that, I loved playing it, so I continued in high school.”

 

 

The senior at Cornelia Connelly High School plays left field for the Koalas, a position Michael prefers as it gives her, “enough time to react to the ball.”

But regardless of where she plays, Michael has a deep passion for the sport that’s made even more enjoyable by her teammates.

“I love my teammates and the camaraderie we have,” says the 17-year-old. “It’s a really fun environment. We can balance work and fun.”

Because of her somewhat late start in the sport, Michael has devoted extra time to honing her skills, a goal she continues to pursue as she looks to the upcoming season.

“When I started, I didn’t have much experience, so I had to practice really hard to get better at batting,” says Michael. “I originally struck out a lot. But I worked hard in practice to hit the ball and know where the strike zone is. We also worked a lot in practice so I could judge fly balls and be able to catch them in the game.”

Michael’s work ethic has translated into not only an improvement in skills, but also a positive attitude that extends to her teammates.

“Sarah is so easy to coach,” says Connelly’s varsity softball coach, Jason Manley. “She works hard, does anything coaches ask her to do, and never complains. That’s a coach’s dream. Sarah gets along well with all of her teammates and never has anything negative to say about anyone or anything. No matter what the situation may be for our team, she’s always smiling, and that can be contagious for the rest of our team.”

The four-year varsity player is also on the basketball court for the Koalas, and attributes her conditioning to being a multi-sport athlete.

“Basketball helps warm me up before softball,” says Michael. “It helps get me into shape. That way, when softball happens, I’m ready to go.”

The Yorba Linda resident plans on studying engineering in college and hopes to continue playing sports through intramural leagues. With a father as a softball coach and mother who has taught her what it means to practice sportsmanship, Michael’s parents continue to inspire and support her. As a student athlete at Connelly, the ability to exercise her faith is a large part of how Michael approaches the game.

“I like to pray before games, that it’s a good game, and no one gets hurt, and that we can hopefully win,” says Michael. “My faith also comes through in my sportsmanship. I treat [other players] with respect.”

 

ATHLETE PROFILE: JULIANA RESONG

Softball player Juliana Resong has been on the ball field most of her life, but it was through baseball that she got her start.

“At first I started out with baseball…in kindergarten at (age) five…through fourth grade,” says Resong. “At that point, I got switched over to softball.”

 

 

The Cornelia Connelly High School senior plays infield for the Koalas, and primarily first base. As a player with mostly an outfielder background, Resong has worked hard to make the necessary adjustments and loves the action that playing first base provides. Her overall love for the game stems from the balance she sees between the team and the individual.

“The thing I love most about softball is that it’s a team sport, but it’s also very individual,” says Resong. “So you’re building on each other’s talents and gifts, but you’re also showing how you can be your own person and contribute to a team in your own way.”

In reflecting on her final year as a student athlete at Connelly, Resong appreciates how the team aspect of the game has helped her become a better competitor.

“I like representing Connelly because it’s with the same team for several years,” says Resong. “I’ve known these people for several years. We know how each other works. We can mesh well with each other.”

Before the softball season begins, Resong is on the pitch for Connelly as a soccer player, where she finds several crossover skills that help her prepare to take the diamond each spring.

“Soccer helps me prepare for softball because it’s some of the same skills,” says Resong. “You can’t sit back on your heels and wait. You constantly have to be on your toes, ready to go.”

Resong’s competitive nature isn’t limited to athletics, as the 17-year-old competes for Connelly as a part of their Academic Decathlon team. Additionally, she’s a long-time member of the Girl Scouts, where she’s earned both her Bronze and Silver Awards and is working toward her Gold Award.

The Garden Grove resident also serves through lectoring and assists with confirmation programs. Her faith is a big part of how she competes and guides how she handles the tougher side of sports.

“It helps bring me down a notch and remember there are bigger things than this,” says Resong of her faith.

While she’s undecided on her future career path, Resong admits that softball may become more of a recreational outlet as she enters college. But she’s quick to acknowledge the many life lessons the game has taught her.

“Softball has taught me that everybody has different gifts,” says Resong. “And while someone’s might be in one place, someone else’s might be in a completely different place. So you can’t judge one person based on someone else’s gifts. You have to figure out what each person does individually, and make good of what they can do.”

ATHLETE PROFILE: CONNELLY’S AIMEE JIMENEZ

Aimee Jimenez has been around softball all of her life, and with parents who both played before she was born, it’s no surprise their daughter was quick to pick up the sport.

“I’ve been playing since I was four years old,” says Jimenez. “I was brought up with [softball], so I started [when] I was little.”

 

The Cornelia Connelly High School junior is both a pitcher and an infielder for the Koalas. She particularly enjoys her role on the pitcher’s mound, and acknowledges getting a bit of a rush each time she strikes a player out.

“I think my favorite part about playing those positions, especially for being a pitcher, is I like controlling the game or the pace of it,” says Jimenez.

The 16-year-old also serves as a captain on her team, where she works hard to respect all players and lead by example. Her goals for the upcoming season include bringing her teammates together to become a stronger and more united group. And the chance to do that in a Connelly uniform holds a special place for Jimenez.

“I think representing Connelly in general is a pride that I take,” says Jimenez. “It’s a lot of fun.”

In addition to being a two-year varsity softball player, Jimenez also plays volleyball for the Koalas and finds that training for both sports keeps her prepared to take either the field or the court.

“They coincide, in a way, with the leg workouts and running,” says Jimenez of being a multi-sport athlete. “Any exercise can really help and benefit you in the long run.”

Away from the softball diamond, Jimenez participates in the Girls Scouts program, a leadership opportunity that she and many of her friends have been involved with since the second grade. Her parents’ support, as well as her faith, are both key to her success on and off the field.

“I put God first, and in the big picture of life…God is first, then my family and then sports,” says Jimenez. “And so I always pray to him before a game. And if I’m in a tough situation, I ask for his help. But I understand that if something doesn’t go my way, it’s just part of the plan.”

As of now, the Orange resident’s future plans for after high school include a career in the medical field, with sports most likely becoming more of a recreational endeavor. Jimenez admits that she has been playing softball for so long, she doesn’t know what it feels like to not play, so she will always stay close to the field. Her parents, teammates and the game itself have taught her several key lessons she’s sure to keep by her side.

“Never give up,” says Jimenez, “because once you do, you’ve already lost.”

 

COACH SAYS POWER OF PRAYER, EUCHARIST FUEL HER EFFORTS ON, OFF FIELD

The power of prayer and the holy Eucharist fuels Alyson Habetz to new heights in life as well as in her coaching job as the University of Alabama’s softball associate head coach.

During the recent NCAA Women’s College World Series, national network cameras showed Habetz directing the offense of the Crimson Tide as first base coach. The Crimson Tide players were battling against the nation’s softball elite in Oklahoma City in early June.

Since Habetz’s arrival in 1998, Alabama has made nine trips to the World Series. Some years work out better than others for the Tide. This year, they lost an extra innings heartbreaker in the opener against Oklahoma, 3-0, and then had to book an early trip back home after falling 6-4 to Louisiana State University the next day. The two-and-done outcome was very different from four years earlier when Alabama took the NCAA crown.

“The Holy Spirit was really at work that night,” Habetz fondly recalled in an interview in with SportsUp News, a faith-based sports news website.

Win or lose, her faithfulness to Catholicism is most important to her.

She is devoted to praying the rosary and attending daily Mass. While in Oklahoma City, she received the Eucharist at St. Joseph Old Cathedral.

“The Eucharist is my fuel. It keeps me going,” she said.

She sees many similarities between growing in her faith and her dedication to sports.

“It’s sometimes hard for me to get up early and pray or go to Mass, but I know I have to do it and I know how much it will help me,” she said. “It’s the same in sports. You have to do the drills to perfect your skills.”

Her commitment and love for her faith inspires others.

That’s the case with Kallie Case, a senior utility player for Alabama.

“Aly is a shining light in my life and will continue to impact so many people with her faith,” Case said of Habetz. “It’s amazing to see that she can stay smiling and happy every single day. She is a godly woman and is a great example of who I strive to be.”

Minutes after losing to Oklahoma, Habetz was far from dejected and looked forward to another opportunity. Again, she used her belief structure.

“Christ came to give us all hope in all situations,” she said.

Habetz grew up in Louisiana in a large family and was accustomed to going to Mass regularly and receiving the sacraments.

Her first sports love was for baseball, not softball. After some legal challenges, she played first base and pitched for Notre Dame High School in Crowley, Louisiana, in the Diocese of Lafayette.

Her college career was at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she excelled in basketball and softball, before graduating in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She also made her own trip to the Women’s College World Series in 1993. One of her assistant coaches was Patrick Murphy, now head softball coach at Alabama.

“Alyson is a great role model for our players and future recruits,” he said. “She is one of the most outstanding people I have met.”

After college, she got to play out her dream of playing professional baseball, pitching three years for the Silver Bullets, an all-women’s team.

“My fastball was in the 80ish range, but my curveball was something else,” Habetz recalled.

The Silver Bullets garnered national publicity during their short life doing exhibitions in the 1990s. After the first year, the team was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. There to help mark the event was her friend and sports hero Tommy Lasorda, the famed longtime Dodger manager.

Lasorda, a fellow Catholic, remains in contact with her to this day.

“As a coach, he always told me to make players believe they can do it,” she said. “He is quite a motivator.”

Habetz is mentioned in a 2015 book on Lasorda, called “Tommy Lasorda: My Way” by Colin Gunderson, published by Triumph Books.

During her time with the Silver Bullets, Habetz wasn’t quite as devoted to her faith as she is today. Gradually she read and was more motivated to pray the rosary and attend daily Mass. It’s a practice she’s continued in recent decades.

“I do what I have to do to grow in holiness.”

 

OLU HAD A LOT TO PROVE

The Orange Lutheran softball team began this season with plenty to prove. The Lancers had shown they could build a snazzy regular-season record and win Trinity League titles, but advancing deep into the playoffs had become a towering obstacle.

Despite some talent-laden rosters over the years, and many more wins than losses in league play, Orange Lutheran hadn’t advanced past the quarterfinals since 2002, when it competed at the much less competitive CIF-SS Division 4 level.

With likely its strongest team in school history this spring, the league champion Lancers finally broke that spell May 26, when they defeated visiting Lakewood in a Division I quarterfinal. Even that win didn’t come easy, as Orange Lutheran took a 9-1 lead into the sixth inning, gave up a two-run homer and then watched Lakewood bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh before the Lancers held on for the 9-5 victory.

“Division I is hard,” says Orange Lutheran coach Steve Miklos, who has been heading the program since 1998. “Everybody that’s left is good. Their pitchers are good, they all have good hitters, so it’s just who plays the best that day.”

Prior to 2011, the Lancers were a middle of the pack team in the Trinity League and were just happy to make the playoffs.

But in 2011, they went 8-0 in league play to win the championship and were building momentum after a 3-1 opening-round playoff win against Corona. Orange Lutheran then went extra innings in its second-round game against Canyon, but two errors on the same play by senior shortstop Brittany Boesel—who had only five errors all season—scored the game-winning run for Canyon.

The Lancers won league again the following season, but were shut out by Edison, 6-0, in the quarterfinals. Three years ago, Orange Lutheran knocked off M.L. King of Riverside in the second round, but was clobbered on its home field by Pacifica, 13-1, in the quarterfinals.

The following season, Orange Lutheran met Vista Murrieta in the second round after Vista Murrieta had upset third-seeded Esperanza, but couldn’t hold a three-run lead in the fifth inning and lost on a three-run walk-off homer in extra innings. The Lancers won 25 more games last season, but couldn’t get past Los Alamitos in the second round.

“I’ve always says, to win in the playoffs, you have to get some breaks,” Miklos says. “You have to play well, but you need some breaks and you have to be a little bit lucky. The best team doesn’t always win.”

That’s why Miklos was far from relaxed when his team took an eight-run lead into the sixth inning in the quarterfinal against Lakewood last month. He knew anything could happen.

Sure enough, the Lancers needed only one out to secure the victory when a routine grounder to shortstop took a bad hop and caromed off the arm of Mackenzie Boesel, the younger sister of Brittany.

Up came the tying run for Lakewood—one of its power hitters—but pitcher Maddy Dwyer bore down and induced a fly out to end the game.

“We know in the playoffs, we’re going to have to deal with pressure and we dealt with it,” Mackenzie Boesel says. “We knew we just needed to get outs and that’s what we did.”

And over in the dugout, Miklos was letting out a big sigh of relief.

 

PRIESTS TAKE TO THE FIELD FOR COLLAR SERIES, FOR VOCATIONS

PAPILLION, Neb. (CNS) — About 7,000 people spent part of their Father’s Day with their spiritual fathers — their priests — at a Nebraska softball matchup between priests of the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Lincoln.

The two teams met at Werner Park near Papillion, home field for the Omaha priests, on a warm, humid evening June 21 to raise money for vocations.

The 31-17 score indicated a high-scoring rout by the Lincoln priests, but the higher-than-expected turnout made both sides winners.

Proceeds hadn’t been tallied completely but were expected to exceed $35,000, according to Jim Carroll, executive director of Spirit Catholic Radio, which organized the event with the two dioceses.

“The turnout and support for the I-80 Collar Series has exceeded our expectations,” Carroll said. “Our hope is that through this event, we foster a greater awareness of the importance of vocations, and by seeing these great priests in a ‘regular guy’ setting playing softball, we hope that young people might be inspired to pursue a vocation themselves.”

Attendance was double of what the Omaha archdiocese had expected and the biggest fundraiser ever for its vocations office, said Kathie Weinfurtner, the office’s administrative assistant.

“People just love their priests and want to support them,” she told the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Omaha Archdiocese.

Fans wore red for the Lincoln “Capitol City Clergy” team and blue for the Omaha archdiocese “Padres.” Some people held signs supporting their favorite priests.

“Ultimately, it’s a day for families,” said Father Paul Hoesing, the Omaha Archdiocese’s vocation director. “Families that pray and play together stay together,” he said. “What a better way to celebrate family life than at a ballpark.”

A Family Fun Zone, with a carousel and bounce house, was free with admission during the 5 p.m. game.

Tailgating began at 3:30 p.m. with several parishes and Catholic organizations serving food. Mary Our Queen Parish in Omaha gave away 1,000 hot dogs and supplied ice and water for both dugouts. The parish turned over freewill donations for the food to the vocations offices, Weinfurtner said. Parishes in the Lincoln Diocese gave away bratwurst and pulled-pork sandwiches to fans from both sides.

The game started late because people were having such a good time tailgating and had to be coaxed inside the ballpark, said Father Andrew Roza, who will become the archdiocese’s next vocations director beginning July 1.

“The value of the event was largely just to celebrate who we are as Catholics — and enjoying that,” he said.

The game began with a prayer for vocations led by retired Lincoln Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz and ended with the crowd joining both priests from both dioceses in a “Hail Mary.” Then the priests closed the game by singing the “Salve Regina” together.

Bishop Bruskewitz and Father Hoesing threw the ceremonial first pitches. Each team had 20 players. And the 10 on the field batted each of the six innings, leading to the high score.

The priests spiced up the game with a little humor now and then. Father Damien Cook, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Omaha and catcher for his team, feigned a dispute with the home umpire, kicking dirt at him.

The umpire played along, ejecting Father Cook from the game. But on his way to the dugout, Father Cook knelt down at the feet of another priest, who made the sign of the cross over him and “absolved” him of his sin, which allowed the catcher back into the game.

The event was a unique chance for priests of neighboring dioceses to just have fun together.

“We do have periodic encounters, such as retreats, funerals, ordinations or other ministerial occasions,” Father Hoesing said. “However, a broad, intentional moment of recreation is new territory in my estimation. It’s an exciting new moment in our history across the Platte (River),” the boundary line between the dioceses.

“A new and fun encounter between brother priests always serves God’s people,” he said.

“The psalmist is clear on this: ‘How good it is when brothers live in unity!’ When people see priests together and genuinely enjoying one another, our witness to Jesus’ desire: ‘That they all may be one’ becomes credible. Unity begets unity. Priestly fraternity can bring families together in new and joyful ways.”

Father Roza and a few other priests were sore the following day, but the scrapes from a fall or any pulled muscles from sprinting around the bases were worth it, he said.

“It was a blast, a wonderful night,” Father Roza said. “It was a beautiful celebration of the whole Catholic community.”

The crowd’s cheers and the money raised to help educate seminarians and encourage religious vocations were encouraging, Father Roza said.

“I’m grateful for people’s support for the priests serving now and for those who will serve in the future,” he said.

The event will be held again next year, but the date and site hadn’t been determined yet. Father Hoesing said he would like to see the game become an annual tradition.

“The joy of priesthood is meant to be seen,” he said. “I’d love to see more opportunities to take this lantern of priestly joy out from under the bushel basket and onto the lampstand.”

Szalewski is a staff writer at the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha.

MEET CORNELIA CONNELLY’S MELODY VALLEJOS

Melody Vallejos’ route to discovering her love for softball was more of a process of elimination than a conscious choice.

“I got my start in softball when I was about eight,” says Vallejos, who will be a senior when classes resume in the fall. “My mom wanted me to get involved in a sport, so I chose the one with the least amount of running that I could find.”

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Her almost accidental find has proven beneficial for the Cornelia Connelly School varsity player. As catcher for the Koalas, Vallejos is the eyes and ears of her team.

“Catcher has always been my favorite position because I get to have the ball every play and I get to be a part of every play, which keeps it interesting,” says Vallejos.

Her role as co-captain this year has fueled Vallejos’ desire to grow as a leader, both on and off the field. And for the team’s leading hitter, it’s a role she has embraced.

“Melody is the heartbeat of our team,” says Connelly’s varsity softball head coach, Jason Manley. “She helps challenge and encourage her teammates, and she’s been a game changer. As a coach, I could not ask for more.”

Vallejos admits that being both a catcher and a leader is something that has evolved for the 17-year-old, roles that require a great deal of patience.

“Being behind the plate, seeing where the ball goes every play, you really have to talk to your team,” says Vallejos. “It took me a long time to get comfortable in my position. It’s taught me that it comes with a lot of hard work.”

Off the field, Vallejos takes great pride in serving her campus as a member of the Executive Board for the school’s ambassadors. And in her community, Vallejos is a part of the youth leadership team at St. Martin de Porres Church in Yorba Linda, working with people there who have “become another family” to the Yorba Linda resident.

Vallejos considers her faith to be of the upmost importance in her life, especially when it comes to representing Connelly on the ball field. The smaller all-girls school is widely known for exhibiting sportsmanship, and Vallejos makes sure to contribute to that distinction.

“My faith is definitely one of the most important things in my life,” says Vallejos. “It has an effect on how I play on the field with regard to other teams. We always treat the other team with respect.”

Heavily influenced by her relationship with her late great-grandmother, Vallejos says her future plans include majoring in sociology, studying abroad and ultimately teaching children in other countries, with the hopes of being able to remain on the softball diamond along the way.

“She was one of the biggest faith influences in my life,” says Vallejos of her great-grandmother. “She’s helped me grow into the woman I am.”