By John Philip Wyllie
Last summer, while still only 15, Bonita Vista High School’s Eliana Chavez was the winning pitcher for Baja California regional team in the U-22 Mexican national championship game. She hopes that someday soon she will represent Mexico in Olympic competition, but for now she is focused on helping the undefeated Bonita Vista Barons retain their Mesa League title.
“I have coached Eliana for the last five years through Bonita Valley Softball. She was my first baseman for a long time and I never even knew she could pitch,” said her coach, John Carlson. “In the last few years, she has really dedicated herself to pitching and to becoming a good all-around player, but her pitching has been a more than pleasant surprise. I think Eliana will become dominating if she stays as dedicated as she has been.”
Chavez became involved in Mexican softball through her pitching coach, Monica Medina.
“Monica invited me to play with her in Tijuana so I went down there and pitched one game and they became interested in me. They ask me if I’d like to play on one of their (youth) Olympic teams, a team that was trying to make it to the nationals. We won a tournament in Mexicali and from there we were invited to play in Acapulco last summer. Representing Baja, we won four games to get into the final against D.F. from Mexico City. I was selected to pitch in the final and we won 2-0.”
In November, Chavez will be joining elite players from all over Mexico to participate in the U-17 Mundial or World Softball Championship in Tampa. There is no telling what that may lead to. Right now, however, Chavez must stay focused and continue pitching well for her high school team. She is off to a strong start.
“I am 2-0 right now and everything has been pretty consistent and working well,” Chavez said. More of a finesse pitcher than a fire-baller, Chavez can make batters look silly swinging at air. She likes to constantly keep them off-balance with her wide array of “junk” pitches.
One of Chavez’s biggest fans is teammate Laura Sheffield who shares the pitching duties with her at Bonita Vista High.
“Eliana does everything really well. When she starts throwing her curve balls and risers it is awesome. She is able to fake batters out and she is only a sophomore. Imagine how much better she will be by the time she is a senior! She has also been a great support to me,” Sheffield said. “I remember when I was having trouble with my curve ball. I just could not get it. She showed me how to flip my wrist and it really helped.”
With consistent pitching provided by Chavez and Sheffield, a rock solid defense and hitters led by 2004 Mesa League Player of the Year Lindsey Carlson (.459 and 31 RBIs) the Barons should repeat as league champions. Add to that three returning first team all-league players in Angel Arenas, Laura Lopez and Kristi Randall and the Barons seem poised to make some noise in the postseason as well.