Seryna Esparza’s grit and work ethic earn her signing with D1 Coppin State program –

Seryna Esparza had to wait a long time for college softball programs to start giving her some attention.

This intrigued Hollister High coach Andrew Barragan, who reportedly sped up Esparza’s recruiting process and told anyone willing to listen that they would get 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 that Dominican (University of San Rafael) and Coppin State were the only ones to offer, given his quality,” Barragan said. “But college coaches don’t know Seryna like I do. They only know her by the way she hits. They don’t know her as a person. It will take a conversation to realize the type of character she has and how she is such a dominating force. There aren’t many girls I talk about and rave about, but she is one of them.

Esparza’s stock rose after a strong summer showcase season playing for the San Jose Sting 18U gold team. In July alone, the Sting competed in the Independence Day Tournament (IDT) in Colorado, the Champions Cup in Irvine, and the Alliance Fastpitch Championship Series in Indiana.

It was at IDT that Esparza first spoke with Coppin State coach Ashley Cook and assistant coach Bob Ullman. Esparza said she would have preferred to stay 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, then after a while I didn’t think it would happen at all.”

Indeed, most four-year schools finished recruiting in June, meaning Esparza’s commitment came at the 11th hour. The first day of classes at Coppin State is August 29.

“(During the recruiting process), I was probably all over the place emotionally,” she said. “Anxious, frustrated, definitely disappointed for a little while. It was probably only in the middle of the summer that I started to receive serious offers.

Esparza was a four-year college starter at Hollister and a two-time Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division first-team player, and finished second in voting for league MVP honors last season.

The third baseman/first baseman led all of Hollister’s starters in .512 ERA and .568 on-base percentage, and at one point in the season snatched five straight doubles in five plate appearances , to Barragan’s amazement.

“Just unheard of,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve coached some great hitters here.”

Esparza grew up playing softball with the Hollister Heat before starting his travel ball club journey with the Blackjacks. She didn’t start playing with the Sting until 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.

“Competition is probably what excites me the most,” she said.

Barragan praised Esparza effusively, noting that she struggled a lot in her first season before turning things around through hard work. Early in her career, Esparza struggled with the outfield, as pitchers pushed her away and often hit.

“Seryna led the team in strikeouts in her freshman year,” Barragan said. “She couldn’t pull the trigger. But she kept working on it and eventually started pounding the outer change girls who were throwing her. In practice, she worked with trainer Joe (Monteon) so she could learn to go the other way.

Once Esparza was able to consolidate his weakness, his production surged forward.

“She broke out in her junior year and pretty much carried this team offensively in the hunt for the CCS Championship,” Barragan said. “You just knew in senior year she was going to dominate and that’s exactly what she did – dominate.”

Despite garish stats, it was Esparza’s mental approach and leadership skills that impressed Barragan the most.

“Seryna is one of the best captains to have taken part in the Baler program,” he said. “She is the true embodiment of what someone wearing that black shirt should look like. She was an off-pitch mentor for the underclass. Being captain has nothing to do with what you do on the pitch, it’s how you deal with adversity and failure. And Seryna failed a lot at first but all she did was work harder. I saw her mature before my eyes.

Sportswriter Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Ryan H. Bowman