Seryna Esparza had to wait a long time before college softball programs started showing her some attention.
That puzzled Hollister High coach Andrew Barragan, who would’ve fast tracked Esparza’s recruiting process and told anyone who was willing to listen they would be getting an absolute gem. Two weeks ago, Esparza, a 2022 Hollister High graduate, signed her letter of intent to play at Coppin State, a Division I program in Baltimore.
“I’m very surprised Dominican (University in San Rafael) and Coppin State were the only ones that offered, given how good she is,” Barragan said. “But college coaches don’t know Seryna like I do. They know her only from how she hits. They don’t know her as a person. It will take one conversation to realize the type of character she has and how she’s such a dominant force. There aren’t too many girls I rant and rave about, but she’s one of them.”
Esparza’s stock went up after a strong summer showcase season playing for the San Jose Sting 18U gold team. In July alone, the Sting played in the Independence Day Tournament (IDT) in Colorado, the Champions Cup in Irvine and the Alliance Fastpitch Championship Series in Indiana.
It was at the IDT where Esparza first talked with Coppin State coach Ashley Cook and assistant coach Bob Ullman. Esparza said she would’ve preferred staying closer to home, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play for a D1 program.
“I’m definitely excited,” she said. “I was hoping it would happen and then after a while I didn’t think it was going to happen at all.”
Indeed, most four-year schools have wrapped up their recruiting by June, meaning Esparza’s commitment came at the 11th hour. The first day of classes at Coppin State is Aug. 29.
“(During the recruiting process), I was probably all over the place emotionally,” she said. “Anxious, frustrated, definitely disappointed for a little while. It probably wasn’t until the middle of the summer when I started getting serious offers.”
Esparza was a four-year varsity starter at Hollister and a two-time Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division first team all-league player, and finished second in the voting for league MVP honors this past season.
The third baseman/first baseman led all Hollister starters with a .512 average and .568 on-base percentage, and at one point in the season she ripped off five consecutive doubles in five plate appearances, to Barragan’s amazement.
“Just unheard of,” he said. “Never seen anything like that and I’ve coached some great hitters here.”
Esparza grew up playing softball with the Hollister Heat before starting her travel ball club journey with the Blackjacks. She only started playing with the Sting in January, and the move paid off. Esparza is looking forward to playing at the D1 level at Coppin State, which is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“The competition is probably the thing I’m most excited about,” she said.
Barragan was effusive in his praise for Esparza, noting she struggled mightily in her freshman season before turning things around through hard work. Early in her career, Esparza had issues with the outside pitch, as pitchers worked her away and often found success.
“Seryna led the team in strikeouts in her freshman year,” Barragan said. “She couldn’t pull the trigger. But she kept on working at it and eventually started hammering the outside changeup girls were throwing her. In practice, she worked with coach Joe (Monteon) so she could learn to go the other way.”
Once Esparza was able to shore up her weakness, her production took a quantum leap.
“She broke out in her junior year and pretty much carried that team offensively in the CCS championship run,” Barragan said. “You just knew her senior year she was going to dominate and that’s exactly what she did—dominate.”
Despite putting up some gaudy stats, it was Esparza’s mental approach and leadership skills that impressed Barragan the most.
“Seryna is one of the best captains to ever come through the Baler program,” he said. “She is the true epitome of what a person wearing that black shirt should be like. She was an off the field mentor to the underclassmen. Being a captain has nothing to do with what you’re doing on the field—it’s how you handle adversity and failure. And Seryna failed a lot at the beginning, but all she did was work harder. I saw her mature right in front of my eyes.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]