LYFORD — Karina Cisneros bought into the rich softball tradition in San Benito when she was just 4 years old.
Her softball career began in the city’s youth PONY leagues and blossomed into a year-round dedication filled with long road trips and countless hours at the diamond. Cisneros was determined from a young age to play college softball and began her recruitment process as a sophomore with the guidance of her MVP Fast Pitch travel team coach, Derick Saldivar.
After attending many camps and showcases to get maximum exposure to college coaches, Cisneros made her dream a reality when she announced her commitment to play NCAA Division I softball for Prairie View A&M in November.
“I felt super happy when I realized I reached a goal I’ve been working for my whole life. All the hours and hard work I spent at practice preparing and bettering myself for the next level paid off,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros hasn’t signed her letter of intent yet because she wants to have a signing ceremony with all those who helped her along the way when restrictions against large gatherings due to COVID-19 relax. Those people include her parents, Luis and Letty Cisneros, Saldivar, Juan Jasso and Raul Zamarripa.
“If it wasn’t for my parents taking me to practice and driving those long hours to take me to games and tournaments, I wouldn’t be as good as I am now. They both have always believed in me, and all the love and support they’ve given me is what kept me pushing to be the best,” Cisneros said.
“I’ve only known Mr. Jasso for a few years, but he’s put in so many hours with me in the cage and on the field, (helping) me fine-tune my skills and understand the mechanics of the game. (Coach Zamarripa from Zamarripa Academy) has worked with me since I was 11 years old and has taught me to stay disciplined and humble, and has always motivated me to be better than I was the day before,” Cisneros added.
San Benito softball coach Denise Lira said that discipline became one of the senior’s biggest strengths, particularly in the batter’s box. She said Cisneros had a great presence at the plate and was having one of her best seasons before the coronavirus forced UIL to cancel spring sports.
Cisneros drove in 21 runs on 20 hits through 18 games. She blasted eight home runs, including five during the San Benito Softball Invitational played the first weekend of March. Though Cisneros was heartbroken that her senior year was cut short, she said knowing that she put together strong performances helped with the pain.
Lira praised Cisneros’ approach to the game and said the confidence she exhibited every time she stepped on the field helped her become a leader in the program, and said Cisneros left a lasting impression on her younger teammates.
“San Benito has a strong tradition of girls before her who have gone on to play in college and are still there, and she’s making a path for the younger girls just like the ones that came before her,” Lira said. “I know she’s going to go out and represent our program, our community, her family and herself in a great way, and I wish her well.”
The first baseman will be joining a handful of Rio Grande Valley softball players who are currently or committed to competing for the Lady Panthers and coach Vernon Bland. Cisneros said knowing some girls she’ll be playing with will make the transition easier, and she said she’s felt like part of the PVAMU family since she took her official visit her junior year and fell in love with campus.
Cisneros is going to study criminal justice and English as she pursues a career as a judge. She said her time with the Lady Greyhounds helped her develop mental toughness and strong decision-making skills, which will help her with her future plans.
“I am grateful that I got to be a part of the San Benito softball program, which is one of the best programs in the Valley,” Cisneros said. “I’m going to take with me the sense of pride of being a Lady ’Hound. I hope I impacted the underclassmen in a way that is going to make them work hard and maintain the winning tradition.”