TEMPE — The fall season isn’t just for football, as some Pinal County athletes take the softball field for the first time as college athletes.
Fall ball is in full swing with all three in-state universities hosting the community colleges in offseason scrimmages.
On Friday, Central Arizona College took on Arizona State University in a matchup that featured four Pinal County athletes.
Former Poston Butte ace Lindsay Lopez started in the circle for the Sun Devils, and suited up for the Vaqueras were former Casa Grande Union outfielders Amaya Dasti and Kirstalynne Wright, along with former Vista Grande outfielder Lainey Gonzales.
Gonzales’ teammate from Vista Grande, Angelina Reyes, also plays for CAC but was not available for the scrimmage.
While the level of competition may differ a little between Division I and junior college softball, all the girls agreed that they’re extra motivated as they try to succeed in their post-high school careers on the diamond.
“It’s intense,” Dasti said. “It makes you want to fight for your spot more. It’s different, especially when we’re playing D-I schools, you have to go at it every chance you get. I barely get put in, but I want to go at it every chance I get, given the little amount of time that I get.”
Wright said it’s motivating to see other athletes be aggressive.
“It looks like it comes natural, but you know they work hard and it makes you want to work just as hard,” she said. “It’s a learning experience, you know that all the girls are good enough to go to college, so knowing that you have a chance to go against some of the top players in the United States and showing up and just trying your best is what gets you through it.”
For Lopez, who will compete against some of top programs such as Washington and UCLA, conditioning is the hardest part and the biggest difference from playing in high school.
“Your body never gets a break even when you’re tired you still have to come out and play and practice,” Lopez said. “You have to keep up with it, you can’t take days off because then you can easily be out of shape again.”
A small perk that Dasti, Wright and Gonzales share is that despite attending different high schools and competing against each other, they all started out playing ball together when they were little.
“I’ve been playing with them since I started, so it’s just like a bond,” Gonzales said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, there’s Kirsta. I’ve known Kirsta forever.’ It’s awesome to be playing with them, it’s just fun.”
Dasti has found comfort in that bond with Gonzales and Wright, and admitted that playing with a new team takes some getting used to.
“At first it was difficult for me because it was a new change and it was just different,” Dasti said. “To me it was big that Aleesia (Sainz) wasn’t here anymore. It’s nice to still be close to some people and talk to (them) because some of the other girls I’m just getting to know.”
Although Dasti, Wright and Gonzales are living on campus, they all agreed that staying close to home has its perks.
“I like being here because my dad drives me to the games right now,” Dasti said. “If I wasn’t here I know that I would miss my dad taking me to game and giving me (a hard time) after the game.”
Wright enjoys driving a short distance for a home cooked meal and having her family around, and Gonzales likes having the hometown crowd support.
“It’s Casa Grande so everyone knows you,” Gonzales said. “It’s good having people from home supporting you.”
Out in Tempe, Lopez has decided to immerse herself into the college experience and is excited to finally see what ASU softball is all about.
“I’m trying to enjoy the college life,” she said. “Everyone is trying to adjust at the same time, so it’s just being able to kind of start over. It’s so crazy thinking that I’m in college, it still hasn’t hit me.”
Playing college ball is something all four girls have worked hard for, and getting to play on the same field where they used to sit in the stands is a dream come true, whether they’re playing for the home team or the visitors.
“It’s crazy thinking how I used to watch [the Sun Devils] back in these stands and now I’m actually out on the field playing for them, it’s a dream come true,” Lopez said. “All the hard work that I’ve put in since I was little, it’s all paid off.”