Most softball players play for years in youth leagues and high school with hopes of being recruited by colleges to compete at the highest level.
But freshman Jade Gortarez grew up slugging at a different ball.
Gortarez frequently found herself among the boys on baseball diamonds in Southern California — not softball fields.
Gortarez, a four-year letter in baseball at Hillcrest High School, made the switch to softball when a coach from a local team approached her while she was fielding ground balls. That coach turned out to be an old college teammate of Texas head coach Connie Clark, and the rest is history.
“Jade actually was recommended to me by an old college teammate out in Southern Cal that was a club coach out there,” Clark said. “She just called me and said, ‘Connie, I got an athlete that came over from the baseball side.’ She was working out with her dad’s team and saw a little ponytail flapping and said, ‘That’s a girl over there.’”
Before enrolling at Texas, Gortarez was competing at a very high level, representing the United States on the Women’s National Team. Although she has four years to make memories on the Texas softball team, some of her fondest athletic occurrences stem from her time with Team USA.
“The greatest accomplishment is playing with the … national team,” Gortarez said. “In 2015, we went to the Pan American Games and won gold, so that’s always just the greatest memory that I’ve ever had.”
As she learns and grows into the game of softball, there are many hurdles Gortarez faces.
“The toughest part is hitting, definitely because of chemistry and just a passion to go out and be the best at whatever I do, in whatever sport I’m competing in,” Gortarez said. “That’s just always going to be there, so hitting is the hardest thing.”
While the challenges are numerous, senior pitcher Tiarra Davis has been impressed with the young player.
“You know, Jade has really stepped up and came into a role where she’s like one of our best defensive players on the field,” Davis said. “I’m excited to see her continue to grow and get better this season and see what she can bring to the table for our team.”
With a quarter of the season already finished, the team will need Gortarez to contribute in any way she can as they make a push toward conference play.
“As a freshman, I hope to just produce and be able to go out there and be on the field at all times no matter where they put me,” Gortarez said. “I’ve been at short, second, third, center field, right field — just no matter what, I just want to be productive in this lineup, and I think that’s what every player and teammate wants to do.”