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Women's College World Series

Women’s College World Series showcases Latina stars

Latinas abound at NCAA Women's College World Series

As the eight-team NCAA Women’s College World Series begins today, you’ll notice softball rosters are far more diverse than they are at the Men’s College World Series. You’ll see plenty of Latinas starring this week, whether it’s Arizona freshman Sharlize Palacios, UCLA’s Brianna Perez or Oklahoma’s Nicole Mendes.

Watching part of the Super Regionals this weekend, you could see the country’s diversity represented. You saw teams comprised of a significant number of white, Black, Latino and Asian/Pacific Islanders.

The Latina players stood out to me. The Latino presence at the University of Arizona and perennial powers Oklahoma and UCLA could not be ignored.

Brianna “Bri” Perez is somebody to watch at the Women’s College World Series

To find some perspective on the Latino experience in major Division I softball, I turned to Lolani Lamoreaux, a small business owner in San Diego. She played second base at Auburn University in 2004 and 2005.

Lamoreaux’s route to major college softball was unique. She didn’t go directly from high school to DI. Instead, she went from a Northern Orange County public high school that didn’t have a winning team to a junior college before Auburn.

“Last year a girlfriend from high school reached out to me,” she says. “Her daughter plays softball and she’s Hispanic. She just wanted me to give advice to her daughter and potentially talk to her. … She really wanted to get my experience and perspective on the sport and relay it to her daughter, and to me that’s probably the coolest thing about me going to Auburn.”

Lamoreaux was admittedly a late bloomer in the sport. Nonetheless, she believes her route was impacted by not having people who could promote her skills or who could give her information about how to earn a college scholarship by playing softball. 

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Lamoreaux knew of Lisa Fernandez, a legendary pitcher at UCLA and on Team USA. She looked up to Fernandez, who is now an assistant coach for the Bruins. But that was about the extent of her knowledge. 

Alyssa Garcia
Alyssa Garcia has helped UCLA reach the Women’s College World Series. Photo courtesy UCLA Athletics.

It took junior college coaches to push and guide her through the process of getting recruited. That’s something she missed as a good prep softball player. Since her playing career ended, she has seen the sport evolve.

“I know we joked about giving advice,” Lamoreaux says. “It’s weird to give advice, but it’s something that I didn’t have.”

She has seen universities place more resources into developing their programs. Those schools now have the ability to identify and recruit players all over the country. There are more scholarships available than before.

Recognizing her own experience and that lack of information that held her back, Lamoreaux is especially proud that she is routinely recognized as an authority. She is happy to be a resource for many young athletes and their parents about their softball development. 

“I’m on a tiny, tiny scale because I’m not a Lisa Fernandez and was not a big time player,” she says. “But within my community and my small amount of connections, the fact that I have people who reach out to me and asked for my advice and my experience, makes me feel good that I can offer them something that I didn’t have.

“At  the end of the day that’s probably one of the most rewarding things about my experience overall.”

Sharlize Palacios
Sharlize Palacios helped the University of Arizona reach the Women’s College World Series. Photo by Mike Mattina/ Arizona Athletics

In her role as Coaches Coordinator for the Allied Gardens Little League in San Diego County, she stays connected to baseball and softball.  She’s somewhat troubled by the proliferation of travel ball at a younger age and specialized coaches who can make the game seem inaccessible to players of a lower socioeconomic background.

Lamoreaux knows that many players similarly situated to herself would have a harder time pursuing and obtaining a higher education without the presence of softball. Making softball more expensive and exclusive earlier can hinder Latina participation. 

But on the whole, Lamoreaux is encouraged by the number of Latinas in college softball. She cites Sydney Romero, a former Oklahoma Sooner star and current student assistant, as a player she enjoyed watching in recent years. 

Romero, like Fernandez, are on the list of Latinas participating in this weekend’s Women’s College World Series.  

We wish all the participants, “Buena suerte”. 

OU Nicole Mendes UTL R-Sr. Houston, Texas / Home School
OU Giselle Juarez LHP R-Sr. Glendale, Ariz. / Mountain Ridge HS
OU Alanna Thiede LHP So. Carlsbad, Calif. / Carlsbad HS
OU Jennifer Rocha Assistant HC    
OU Sydney Romero  Student Assistant    
OU Erin Arevalo  Vol. Ass’t    
JMU Alexis Bermudez P R-Jr.  Santa Fe Springs, CA/ St. Paul’s/ Bethune-Cookman
OKLA ST.  Raquel Dominguez C Sr.  Victorville, CA/ Silverado HS
UCLA Rachel Garcia P/1B R-Sr. Palmdale, Calif. / Highland HS
UCLA Briana Perez INF R-Jr. Martinez, Calif. / Alhambra HS
UCLA Holly Azevedo P R-Jr. San Jose, Calif. / Pioneer HS
UCLA Julie Rodriguez OF Sr. Norwood, N.J. / Northern Valley Old Tappan HS
UCLA Lexi Sosa P/UTIL R-Fr. Carmel Valley, Calif. / Mater Dei Catholic HS
UCLA Carson Armijo OF Fr. Plano, Texas / Plano East Senior HS
UCLA Sara Rusconi Vicinanza C R-Fr. San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic HS
UCLA Alyssa Garcia C/1B R-Fr. Chula Vista, Calif. / Mater Dei Catholic HS
UCLA Anna Vines UTIL R-So. Temecula, Calif. / Vista Murrieta HS
UCLA Grace Guzman OF Fr. Napa, Calif. / Napa HS
UCLA Lisa Fenandez  Ass’t Coach     
ARIZONA Hannah Martinez  UTL R-Jr. Garden Grove, Calif./ Pacifica H.S.
ARIZONA Reyna Carranco 2B R-Sr. Oxnard, CA/ Oxnard H.S.
ARIZONA Janelle Meoño OF R-Fr. Hacienda Heights, CA/ Glen A. Wilson H.S.
ARIZONA Malia Martinez 3B R-Sr. Poway, CA/ Poway H.S.
ARIZONA Sharlize Palacios C R-Fr. Chula Vista, CA/ Eastlake H.S.
ARIZONA Jasmine Perezchica OF Fr. La Quinta, CA/ Palm Desert H.S.
ARIZONA Jessie Fontes P Fr. Fillmore, CA/ Adolfo Camarillo H.S.
ARIZONA Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza OF R-Sr. Mission Viejo, CA/ Mission Viejo H.S.
ARIZONA Mariah Lopez P R-Sr. Sagus, CA/ Saugus H.S.

Featured photo courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics.

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