The San Benito High softball team needed a win in the worst way. Having lost their first five games entering a March 17 contest against Mitty, the team’s confidence was down. However, junior third baseman Dominique Monteon and her teammates broke through in a big way.
Monteon, a University of North Carolina commit, led off the game with a home run, pacing San Benito to a 13-5 victory. Monteon doesn’t judge her success so much on her individual stats; rather, she values the team’s numbers in the won-loss column. In other words, Monteon understands it’s up to players like her to carry a team at times and will it to victory.
Look for Monteon to do just that going forward this season. After a 0-5 start, the Haybalers have gone 6-3 entering Tuesday’s league game with Watsonville.
“I would say the Mitty game was our best just because collectively we did well,” she said. “Starting off the game with a home run really helped us and got our vibe going. Once we realized we could hit that pitcher, we were having fun again and not pressing. Whenever I hit a home run or one of my teammates do, it’s a game-changer. ”
Monteon has hit four home runs this season, one more than in her first two years combined. Chalk up the increased total to a strength-training program she started doing in the off-season and a sharper approach at the plate.
“I went to the gym more, and it really helped me build up my strength, agility, conditioning and speed,” she said. “At the plate, I’ve changed my mentality to go after my pitch and not just any strike pitch. The majority of my home runs have been on 3-1 counts and chasing after my pitch. It all depends on what the pitcher’s favorite pitch is. (For example) I’m not going to go after a riseball if she’s a riseball pitcher. If there is a runner on base, I’ll do a little more situational hitting.”
Monteon credits No. 9 hitter and fellow junior Alyssa Ito for setting her up at the leadoff spot. Ito has a solid on-base percentage.
“Alyssa has been producing for us, allowing me or (No. 2 hitter) Amber (Rodriguez) to have an at-bat with the chance to drive in runs,” Monteon said. “It’s great playing with this team, especially with the seniors. Knowing it’s their last year, you want to play hard for them because you know they’re playing hard for you.”
Monteon’s attitude can best be summed up as going past one’s limits. Whenever Monteon feels exhausted or is in a crucial situation, she knows she has to press forward not just for herself, but her teammates as well. Monteon spent the off-season playing for the Cal Nuggets travel ball program.
“It’s a great program,” said. “They definitely push to get the most out of you.”
Balers coach Andrew Barragan said Monteon has been impressive for a wide range of reasons, starting with the fact that she’s batting leadoff for the first time in her career.
“We’re asking Dom to fill some big shoes in the leadoff role,” Barragan said. “It takes a different mindset to hit at the top of the order, especially since she’s a free swinger. The whole mindset has to change, from working the count more and working her way on base. She’s a team player and has adjusted well.”
Monteon is also at a new position this season, playing third base after manning second base and shortstop in her first two years.
“She’s stepped up at third base covering bunts and being that infield leader if you will,” Barragan said.
Although Barragan would like to see Monteon draw more walks—she has more strikeouts than base on balls—he chuckled after reviewing Monteon’s stats: .531 average, four home runs, 24 hits and 15 RBIs. In other words, it’s hard for Barragan to nitpick over anything about Monteon’s game, and yet he knows Monteon is a tremendous competitor who will take constructive criticism in order to improve her game.
“Even though I haven’t needed her to bunt yet, she’s got great hands and is a great bunter,” Barragan said, who likened Monteon to the high school version of MLB Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson because of her ability to hit a home run from the leadoff spot. “We played against Chaminade in the Las Vegas tournament, and she hit a home run off the big metal scoreboard in left-center field. It made a thunderous sound, just ridiculous like a big thump. It was one of those ones that drew oohs and ahs from the crowd. Dom also made some great plays at third base, some absolute game-changers.”