Nearly everyone in Mariah Lopez’s family has either played softball or baseball, so it was no surprise that Lopez herself ended up on the diamond. In fact, she gave baseball a try before picking up a softball.
“When I was five, my dad signed me up for a baseball t-ball league,” says Lopez. “I decided I liked the sport but didn’t really like the boys. So I started playing softball, and I’ve been playing ever since.”
The Cornelia Connelly High School senior and four-year varsity starter has been behind the plate for the Koalas the last two seasons, having moved from infield to catcher in order to fill a need for her team.
“Anyone who knows softball will tell you that [playing catcher] is certainly not the most glamorous position, but it’s so important,” says Connelly head softball coach, Jason Manley. “It’s not Mariah’s natural position, but she does a tremendous job filling that role for us.”
As the only senior on this year’s varsity squad, Lopez was voted in as a team captain and serves her teammates by leading through her example.
“Mariah is willing to do anything that will help her team and, as a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” says Manley. “In practice and in games, she has a knack for picking the perfect times to be more vocal and hold her teammates accountable, while never putting any of them down. I’m proud of how much she’s grown as a player and a person.”
Seeing progress in her hitting ability has been her most significant struggle in the sport. But Lopez has learned through softball that although it might be easy to want to give up, quitting is not an option.
“When I first started, it was really hard for me to get my bat on the ball, and when I did, getting any power behind it to get on base was a challenge,” says the 18-year-old. “Hard work, repetition and building up my strength has helped.”
Off the softball field, Lopez serves her campus through ASB as senior class president. She plans to attend college on the East Coast, where she will study journalism and likely keep up her softball skills through club or intramural sports. Her faith has been a large component of her playing career at Connelly.
“I think that the important thing about faith in sports is that it helps you be a good sport and kind to everyone,” says Lopez. “It also helps you get through the losses, and it helps you work through overcoming them.”
The Downey resident credits her work ethic to the example set by her grandmother, one of her strongest role models.
“She has so much quiet strength,” says Lopez. “She inspires me to work hard, because I’ve seen her work hard, coming here from Mexico. She keeps me grateful for everything I have today.”