Baseball: A girl who can keep up with the guys

Montserrat Sandoval has been a solid player for the Anzar High baseball team.

Whenever opponents have faced the Anzar High baseball team for the first time this season, the looks of befuddlement begin. Yes, there is a girl on the Hawks squad, and she can play.
Junior Montserrat Sandoval has been competing with boys for most of her career, starting with the youth baseball league in San Juan Bautista and one year in Hollister Little League. The 16-year-old Sandoval returned to the area a little over a year ago after spending a couple of years in Australia playing for a number of club baseball and softball teams in the Land Down Under.
Per California Interscholastic Federation requirements, Sandoval had to sit out last season since she had already completed a season in Australia. That made Sandoval all the more excited to have the 2016 season start. Although the Hawks are having a rough season, Sandoval has played well.
The 5-foot-3 right-hander had pitched 14 innings entering last Friday’s game against King City, while also starting at second base and batting at various spots in the lineup. Sandoval loves nothing more than to perform well, showing girls can play baseball, too.
In Sandoval’s first game of the season against Pacific Grove, she threw a first-pitch curveball that had plenty of movement.
“It was so sweet how the pitch broke,” she said. “It was a really good curveball, and you can hear them say, ‘Whoa.’ You see the batter look at the (catcher’s) glove, look at me and then turn back to look at his teammates. They didn’t expect that pitch at all.”
Sandoval said she’s had the support of Anzar coaches Matt Lindholm, Mike McKinney and Rich DeAmaral, who make the game fun. Sandoval has showed that a girl can thrive in a game dominated by boys. Sandoval grew up in Hollister before her family moved to Australia three years ago. Sandoval has a unique connection to Australia. Her mom, Ana, was born in El Salvador but moved to Australia when she was young, and has Australian citizenship. Sandoval gained acclaim in Australia after she participated in a six-week winter baseball camp there several years ago.
Once the opportunity to play baseball and softball in Australia started coming in, the family decided to stay there indefinitely. Sandoval’s dad, Mike, got a job as a finance manager in Brisbane, making the move possible. As a 14 year old, Sandoval made Australia’s 18-and-under national baseball team. She also made history after becoming the first girl to represent Queensland in the 14-and-under national baseball program. Although Sandoval loves softball and tae kwon do—she’s a second-degree black belt—baseball is her true passion.
“It’s something that I’ve always loved doing and found the most challenging,” she said. “I’m excited every time I go out there, especially when if I’m pitching. There’s nothing like it.”
Sandoval, whose private coach is former Blue Jays’ standout reliever Mark Eichhorn, said she has confidence when throwing her three main pitches: a fastball, curveball and change-up. Sandoval also takes pride in her development as a hitter.
“Compared to a couple of years ago, I feel like I’ve grown as a baseball player,” she said. “I definitely have more control over my pitches and I’m hitting well.”
Montserrat, which is of Catalan origin and means jagged mountain—Mike named her after a region in Barcelona, Spain—is part of the 40-player pool who will try to make the final cut for the Women’s Team USA national baseball team in late August.
Before that, Sandoval will be playing for the Chicago Pioneers in the Open Women’s Diamond Classic in Baltimore. In July, Sandoval will be playing in the 16-and-under girls national tournament with the San Francisco Bay Sox.
As Sandoval continues her baseball career, she is living a dream. A lot of girls grow up playing baseball before the majority of them switch over to softball by age 12. However, Sandoval is part of a growing trend in the nation where girls are staying in baseball for a longer period of time.

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