She might be just 5-foot-3, but Stephanie Noriega is definitely a force to reckon with on the softball field.
A senior shortstop for the Arcadia High softball team, Noriega has a chance to play softball in college in the Sunshine State with an offer to play at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. That school then feeds into NCAA Div. I powerhouses Florida State University and the University of Florida.
-Photo by Shel Segal
“I haven’t been looking to go out of state,” Noriega said. “I wanted to stay home. That’s what my plan was. But this is a big opportunity.”
Noriega said a friend convinced her to try out for softball in elementary school. She hasn’t stopped playing since.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s pretty much my life now. I’ve grown up with it year-round. Every day is softball. It keeps me busy. It takes up all my time, but it’s worth it.”
She added she also loves playing shortstop.
“It’s a very active position,” Noriega said. “There’s a lot of movement and you’re pretty much involved in every play, so it keeps it exciting.”
And she also said she loves trying to steal bases.
“I like messing around with the catcher when I’m on base,” Noriega said. “So stealing is a good thing to do. But sometimes messing with the pitcher helps.”
Normally batting second, Noriega said she has been asked to bat leadoff this year and is starting to get positive results for the Apaches.
“I’ve gotten used to it,” said Noriega, who has recently learned to switch hit. “It’s definitely different than batting second. You’re the start of the game. You don’t get the feeling of getting used to it. I always take the first pitch anyway, so I guess it makes sense for me to be the first batter. Coaches always tell me to hit the first pitch if it’s good. But I know I’m going to take the first pitch. I just want to get used to it and be up there a while.”
In addition, as she said she wants to study how to become a teacher, Noriega said she has learned much from first-year coach Richard Klumpp.
“He’s kind of just taught me to believe in myself,” she said. “There are techniques that he has taught me that are different from other coaches. But he definitely has gotten it in my head that I can do it if I just believe in myself. Just to have that mental game is the strongest part of softball. He’s definitely taught me much more in life than in softball.”
Klumpp said that Noriega has been a pleasure to coach.
“She’s a very exceptional player,” Klumpp said of Noriega. “Very humble, respectful, a great leader. She’s probably the most multi-faceted young lady I’ve ever met. Her leadership is unbelievable.”
(Shel Segal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him via Twitter @segallanded.)
By Shel Segal