CASA GRANDE — When it comes to Vista Grande’s success in team sports, it’s usually found on the diamond, whether that’s baseball or softball.
This past season both teams were in the playoffs, but it was the softball team that made the most noise as the Spartans made it to the 4A conference state championship game.
There were a lot of pieces that contributed to Vista Grande’s most successful season in school history; from the coaching staff to a dynamite pitcher, some heavy hitters and one of the slickest shortstops with so much swagger that earned her Defensive Player of the Year in the Black Canyon Region and also a spot on the 4A All-Conference team.
While the term is rarely used in softball, Selena Perez can be considered a 5-tool player as she posted a .625 batting average, .968 slugging percentage and .925 fielding percentage.
Unfortunately MaxPreps does not have stats for how much ground athletes can cover, but those who have seen Perez in action know she can cover ground that exceeds the typical amount for shortstops.
“I met up with Selena about four or five years ago in a summer league up in Tempe,” former Vista Grande coach Rudy Valenzuela said. “At that time when I saw Selena, I knew that this young lady was going to be a Division I ballplayer. She was outstanding, she played shortstop for me, she covered to the left, she covered to the right; she had a stick.”
Valenzuela was on-hand last week as Perez signed her letter of intent to continue playing softball at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
While Perez is not the first Spartan to sign with a Division I school, she is part of a short list.
“Honestly, I just want to get out of Arizona,” she said. “Coach (Brian) Kolze, he’s very family oriented, once he gave me the offer he was like, ‘We will make sure you’re at home at the University of the Pacific.’ When I went on my official (visit) it really felt like home because there were players that I played club ball with there; and that actually helped make my decision as well.”
Perez did admit that she’ll probably get a little homesick because it will be a new experience with new people.
“You never know until you try,” she said. “I’m very nervous, but I’m very excited too.”
She added that she’s looking forward to “balling out” and getting her degree. At the moment, Perez is undecided between majoring in business and psychology.
“I don’t know which one to choose,” Perez said. “I’ve been looking into both of them but I’m leaning more towards business because that’s what most athletes go to school for, and plus I want to start a business after graduating. … Starting a new career in college is what I’m basically looking forward to, because I feel like I can do more.”
Perez hopes to return to Arizona after she graduates college to start a hitting facility and eventually expanding that business.
“This is where I grew up, this is my home and this is where I was raised,” she said.
This past year was Perez’s first full season with the Spartans. She transferred to Vista Grande for her sophomore season after having played at Mesa Desert Ridge her freshman year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the spring season was cut short during her sophomore year, and Vista Grande only played 11 games.
“I just wanted a new environment,” Perez said. “I felt like I wasn’t getting better over there, and when I met coach Rudy and I played of him (over the summer), I wanted to transfer and see where things go, and things actually went well for me here.”
With one more high school season left and some key players returning to the team, Perez hopes the Spartans can finish the job this time.
“We started to become a family, we all just clicked at that first practice,” Perez said of the 2021 team. “We had a lot of leaders, a lot of girls that actually cared about building the program. We just trusted each other and had each other’s backs. … Hopefully with the new girls, they’ll want the same thing as what we had before they joined. Hopefully we can do the same thing and go to state and win state.”