BARSTOW • Another Lady Aztec has secured her future on the diamond.
The Barstow softball team is a pretty good place to go for colleges looking to fill out their rosters. The Lady Aztecs have captured the Desert Sky League championship the past three years, and have gotten off to a 7-3, 1-0 start this season. The line-up has traditionally been stacked with potent bats, and that's the case again this year.
One of the players who has been along for the ride is now in her senior year. Larissa Arizaga is hoping to tack on a fourth league title to go with her four years with the program. But whether there is another championship or not, she has made sure there is more softball awaiting her. Arizaga recently signed a Letter of Intent for Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, where she'll play for the Lady Falcons next year.
In her pursuit of the right college, Arizaga was fortunate enough to have the help of Yvonne Angel. Angel is a coach with the SoCal Magic Softball organization's 18 Gold team, for which Arizaga plays. As well as coaching the players during the season, Angel works to help them locate where their next move will be, talking to college scouts about various players and trying to match them up.
"I call colleges, and they tell me what they're looking for," she said, adding that she also holds sessions with players on the field or at home, showing them how to e-mail schools and keep in touch. "If they want me to help, they have to work hard, too."
There were a couple of tournaments, in San Diego and in Colorado, with many scouts in attendance, in which Arizaga got herself noticed. Jesse Angel, who also coaches with the Magic, said she batted over .700 at the Colorado tourney, and he found himself answering scouts' questions about her.
"She got a lot of attention and interest. Her outstanding performance in the tournament locked her in to sign somewhere," he said. "There were a few schools that wanted her. She's a good outfielder with a good arm, and a lefty slap-hitter with good speed. Her ability to get on base sealed the deal."
Yvonne Angel also talked with scouts at the San Diego tourney, including one from Friends University.
"She's a slapper who runs fast and gets on base a lot and teams like that," she said. "She spoke with the scout, he asked her to visit the campus, and she loved it."
"My recruiter really helped me. She's always out there, and she talked to schools for me and coached me," said Arizaga of Angel. "There were other schools I talked to, but I really liked Friends. I liked the softball coach and the campus, and I met with the softball team, went to lunch with them and to hitting practice. There are a couple of other California players on the team."
There was also the matter of the University offering what will be Arizaga's major, communications/media studies.
As happy as she is to have found a new place to play, Arizaga's coaches think Friends will be just as pleased with her.
"Larissa has been one of the joys of my life to coach," said Ray Overstreet, another Magic coach. "She gives her full dedication to whatever she does, in school or in sports. Whatever she puts her mind to, she can accomplish. She's a good ballplayer and at times, a great ballplayer."
"She's very coachable and works hard at everything she does," said Jesse Angel. "She spends as much time on her game as she needs to to be successful. She doesn't hesitate to put in the extra work."
Arizaga playing for Friends will also set up a rivalry situation with a teammate. Lady Aztecs shortstop Miranda Peralta recently signed with Kansas Wesleyan University, which is in the same league, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, as Friends.
"It will be weird playing against family," said Arizaga.
For now, the two are still teammates, and have a season ahead. The Lady Aztecs are the three-time defending DSL champs, and as such, will have everyone in the league gunning for them. Barstow has put some potent offense on display this year, with the team currently sporting a .445 batting average. Arizaga has gotten off to a slow start with a .190 average, but has already scored 10 runs and driven in two.
So while Arizaga is looking forward to her future, first there's the matter of winning another DSL championship.
"I think we can do four titles," she said after a recent win. "I didn't plan to go away to college, but I'm comfortable there. I'm excited; nervous, but excited."