The Texas A&M University-San Antonio Jaguars turned heads last season because of their exceptional play against more established programs like Texas A&M University-Texarkana, Our Lady of the Lake and the University of Houston-Victoria.
One of their standout players was freshman third baseman Andrea Ortiz.
Ortiz was thrown into the fire and thrived in a position that she’s never played. Her play garnered first-team all-conference honors in the Red River Athletic Conference.
When the all-conference honors were announced, Ortiz said the moment she found out, she cried “tears of joy” while on a FaceTime call with her parents.
Ortiz explained how getting recognized as a top player in the conference is accredited to the amount of work she has put in over the years.
“Being able to come into college and start as a freshman…it’s really hard,” she said. “It’s a lot of hours and a lot of sweat that gets put into it (softball).
“It was very stressful but I know that with that result, I was happy,” she added.
On top of being an athlete, Ortiz understands the importance of being a student-athlete by emphasizing how “school comes first” over softball.
Ortiz’s journey to A&M-San Antonio started when she signed her national letter of intent in December 2020.
Ortiz said she had several offers to different schools in the state, but A&M-San Antonio was “definitely home.” She credits head coach Nicole Dufour for making the decision to partake in a second-year program an easy process.
“I really liked how small it (San Antonio) was,” she said. “It felt like a community.”
“I wanted to be part of this still-new program.”
Coming from Mission, which is located in the valley, Ortiz found transitioning away from home “hard at the beginning” but was able to get used to her newfound life in San Antonio.
Ortiz credits her decision to graduate early from high school as the reason she was able to avoid struggles balancing softball and academics early on.
“I’ve always been very good about grades and making sure I have that balance,” she said. “I think the time that I took off really helped me.
”I was able to get back into it (school) without a problem,” Ortiz added.
Taking the semester off before starting her freshman year really set the foundation, Ortiz said.
“I had a completely different mindset,” she said.
“I was just focusing on myself, school…and softball,” she said. “I was probably in the best mindset mentally this year that I have ever been.”
Taking care of mental health as an athlete is something Ortiz advocates for. She believes that it’s “definitely important” to take time away from the game and focus on oneself to get right mentally.
Ortiz said she felt as if she had to “prove” she belonged at the collegiate level during her first year.
“Once I was able to establish that I belonged here…the pressure was off,” she said. “I wanted to be on the field and I wanted to stay there. I had to earn my position, which was hard at first.”
Throughout her career, Ortiz primarily played in the middle infield, but she had to adjust to playing the “hot corner” — third base.
Ortiz said the position change was a difficult transition at first, but a conversation with her dad helped build her confidence, especially adding a facemask for protection.
Ortiz said her dad told her that playing third base was similar to the middle infield.
“At the end of the day, you’re still fielding a ground ball,” Ortiz said her dad told her.
“And I was like yeah, you’re right,” she said, responding to her dad.
Ortiz said playing third base comes with a different approach than playing the middle infield positions, which are second base and shortstop.
“It’s a lot quicker…I’m a lot closer,” she said, describing the difference in distance from other positions. “It’s a hot corner for a reason, so it was an adjustment as far as timing.”
For her first season at third base, Ortiz played like she had been a natural hot corner specialist. Through 53 games, she only had five errors while accounting for six double plays, 63 putouts and 88 assisted outs.
On the flip side, Ortiz contributed heavily at the plate with a .313 batting average, 21 runs, 10 RBIs, 13 base-on-balls and 17 stolen bases.
Ortiz’s stellar play served as one of the reasons why the Jags had success during this last season
Ortiz said she believes many of the teams in the conference overlooked the Jags during the season and during the conference tournament, even after beating every single team in the conference at least one time.
Ortiz said other teams acted as if the Jags weren’t supposed to be there.
“I think we definitely proved everybody wrong,” she added. “We had two big wins against Texarkana at the end of the season, OLLU at the beginning of the season which, I mean, was not expected from a lot of people.”
Ortiz said the mantra the team used when competing in the conference tournament was “why not us?”
“That’s what kept us going. We play for each other and I think that’s what really helped us,” she said. “It changed everything for us.”
The team cohesion didn’t happen overnight, Ortiz said. When they started “playing together,” it helped improve the team especially when it counted — during the conference tournament.
With all that the Jags accomplished this season, Ortiz says she is excited for the future of the program, especially because the athletic department recently received $10 million from Bexar County and $100,000 from Frost Bank for facilities on campus.
“Being able to have a locker room and have a space to call our own…it’s just nice,” she said. “It’s nice to see that we’re taking big steps forward for our athletes.”