Softball pitcher Mariah Gonzalez has come a long way since her freshman year at Turlock High.
Gonzalez, who has been part of a struggling Bulldog team over her current three year span, has been one of the consistent players to shine not only for her team but throughout the Central California Conference, raising eyes from coaches throughout the country.
After various visits and a plethora of options that opened up for Gonzalez since taking a different step in travel ball after her freshman year, she never looked back and finally was offered an athletic scholarship from William Jessup University in Rocklin, signing her letter of intent this past Saturday.
“I was looking at schools that were near to home,” said Gonzalez. “When the opportunity came and I visited the campus, I fell in love with the school right then and there. I knew it was the school I wanted to be at.”
The man they call, 'Coach K' at William Jessup, or better known as Kevin Amick, approached Gonzalez during her summer ball tournament play and asked that she visit.
Everyone was more than welcoming, Gonzalez said of the Christian-based University,
“The first thing I did was practice with the team, and they are very nice,” she said. “They were in a prayer and thanked that I was there and wished I had a good time and they were all welcoming and told me how good I am and how I can help the team and they showed me around; overall great people.”
Gonzalez will join a Warriors team that went 20-21-2 last year during the 2014-15 season, including a 14-8 home record after she concludes her senior at Turlock.
The Turlock team has been limited with numbers and experience and have relied heavily on Gonzalez to pitch nearly every inning since she came in as a freshman during the 2012-13 season.
After her first year in varsity, Gonzalez pitched 113 innings in 24 appearances and finished the year with an ERA of 5.33. She also batted just .188 and the Bulldogs went 1-14 in the CCC.
“Coming in my freshman year, it was hard for me since I was new and the girls were older and I did not have the experience in all phases,” she said. “I played travel ball, but it wasn't the same because we rarely practiced and the competition wasn't as stiff.”
With the assistance of her family and her will to work hard and progress, Gonzalez decided to take matters into her own hands and change everything after her first year.
She changed her habits, work ethic, training, club team — you name it she did it.
Once joining the California Grapettes, head coach Todd Clark was able to hone the skills that were needed to be reinforced if she wished to play at the next level. But he wasn't the only one to help.
Pitching coach Ron Engle is also a big reason why Gonzalez is where she is now.
“After losing confidence my freshman year I knew I needed to do things differently and coach Engle and Clark really helped me a lot. I gained my confidence back,” said Gonzalez. “We also competed in bigger showcases against better teams and we practiced quite often.”
Gonzalez said that this change really made her realize that she needed to do more than the minimum to succeed and reach a level she had not yet seen.
Turlock went on to win twice as many league games during her sophomore year and followed it with a stellar junior year last season after Gonzalez won eight games on 25 appearances and lowered her ERA to 3.29, tossing 153 innings and striking out 131. Opponents hit just .224 off her.
“I know that I could not be here without my teammates help and all my coaches I have had, including coach Ogden at Turlock,” she said. “Now I know to run and exercise more often and I play nearly every weekend. It’s been worth it but also been a sacrifice.”
Gonzalez and Turlock will begin their 2016 season in a home matchup against El Capitan at 3:30 p.m. March 1.
“For Turlock I hope we achieve a playoff berth because I really think we can with the team we are going to have,” Gonzalez added. “I have a high confidence level this year, lots of pressure has been taken off of me since we have another pitcher and I know I will have somebody to have my back when we have a tough time.”