San Benito’s Cisneros signs with Prairie View A&M

San Benito first baseman Karina Cisneros signs her letter of intent to play NCAA Division I college softball for Prairie View A&M University. Cisneros had her long awaited signing ceremony Monday at the high school gym after verbally committing to the Panthers in November. By Claire Cruz, Valley Morning Star

SAN BENITO – Karina Cisneros waited a long time to make her dream come true official, but the experience was worth it.

After verbally committing to play college softball for Prairie View A&M University in November, Cisneros finally put pen to paper and signed her letter of intent to continue her career with the Panthers on Monday at the school’s gym. She wanted the opportunity to celebrate the milestone with those who helped her journey, and the family, coaches and friends in attendance made it worth the wait.

“It feels great. I finally don’t have to wait for it anymore, and it feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Cisneros said. “I’m glad I could have my family and my friends here to support me. It made this a whole lot better.”

Cisneros got emotional as she thanked her family for its sacrifices and endless support. She began playing softball at 3 years old, and throughout the years her family dedicated a lot of their lives, just like she has, to her success. Cisneros said countless hours were spent at practices, tournaments, camps and showcases as she played with different travel organizations and learned from many coaches.

The coaches Cisneros credited during the ceremony were San Benito skipper Denise Lira, MVP Fast Pitch travel team coach Derick Saldivar, Juan Jasso and Raul Zamarripa of Zamarripa Academy.

“I’m going to make you guys proud. I promise you it wasn’t for nothing,” Cisneros said through tears.

Lira, a former college coach, said the Lady Greyhounds will miss Cisneros’ competitiveness, grit and offensive skills. Cisneros hit eight home runs in 18 games in San Benito’s coronavirus-shortened season and drove in 21 runs.

Lira praised Cisneros’ commitment as a key factor in her success and believes her drive will help her stand out in college.

“We’re excited for her, and I’m proud that she’s going to go to the next level and compete. We know she’s going to be successful there,” Lira said. “It has to do a lot with talent, yes, but it also has to do with the fight and competitiveness inside because you’re going to a roster of 20-plus and everybody was a great player at their own respective places. That’s something I know is going to be a challenge but she’s going to do very well, and I think what’s going to be her offset to some others is that she’s never going to give up.”

Cisneros will be taking on NCAA Division I softball with some fellow Rio Grande Valley talent, and the group of incoming freshmen has been communicating through a texting group chat. She said she’s excited to join a new team and see what success they can have under coach Vernon Bland.

As she approaches a new phase of life, Cisneros finds comfort in knowing the support system that helped her celebrate Monday will always have her back.

“There’s ups and downs along the way, and I didn’t believe in myself for a while,” Cisneros said. “They told me everything’s going to be OK, that I just have to work hard for what I want and it’s all going to work out. (Having a big support system) is good because I know that no matter where I turn, there’s going to be somebody there and somebody to pick me up.”