May 8, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
Freshman Maritza Lopez-Portillo is one of the youngest players on Mater Dei High School’s Varsity Softball Team. She is also one of the finest. Years of experience gained first through tee-ball and then playing club softball with Bonita Valley has helped her get to where she is today.
“Maritza is basically carrying this team,” according to Mater Dei head coach, Mike Centrullo. “When you are a pitcher everybody looks to you. It is all on your shoulders. If you fall apart then the rest of the team is going to fall apart. The calm leadership that she brings to this team is impressive. Normally, she hangs in there, has good control and has a number of pitches including a good screw ball and a drop. For her age and where she is right now, her future looks bright. And she is just going to get stronger. Mentally, she is where she should be. If she continues on the course she is on, by the time she is a senior she will have a very bright future ahead of her.”
Lopez Portillo is the complete package. She hits nearly as well as she pitches.
“We can ask her to do anything at the plate. She can hit away, she can bunt, she has speed. When she is on base she is very “heads-up.” She will often take advantage of the mistakes that the other teams make and turn them into extra bases,” Centrullo added.
“I grew up playing softball and now I really love it. I started playing tee-ball when I was six and then I began playing with Bonita Valley. I have played with them for many years and I am looking forward to travel ball now,” Lopez Portillo said following a last week’s game against Bonita Vista. “I grew up playing volleyball as well and I still enjoy playing both sports.”
At the moment her focus is solely on softball. Her own biggest critic, she is constantly trying to improve.
“I have to be strong for the team, so I am working on how I present myself out there. I have learned how to throw a lot of spins, but I am constantly working on my pitches and I feel like I am doing better. When I am pitching I just try to relax, stay focused and do my best. When I don’t do well, I try to keep it in the past, move on and do better the next time.”
Lopez-Portillo applies the same kind of thinking to the classroom where she excels as an honor student.
“I focus on academics a lot because in my house that comes before sports. I have a 3.8 G.P.A. and I enjoy English, World Geography and Science the most.”
With her combined talents on and off the field Lopez-Portillo hopes to one day earn a scholarship to attend college. But for now she is content to be perfecting her pitching and playing the sport she has come to love.