Marina High softball player Briana Gonzalez commits to Eastern Illinois
Recruitment had only just begun for Briana Gonzalez when it was abruptly put on hold.
The coronavirus pandemic dealt a blow to many spring sport athletes who did not have a chance to take the field for an entire season. For softball players like Gonzalez, the pandemic also resulted in the loss of a major stage to compete on, with the cancellation of the Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals.
Gonzalez, a senior infielder for Marina High School, put some of those troubling times behind her in announcing her commitment to the Eastern Illinois University softball program last week.
A 5-foot-7, 145-pound infielder, Gonzalez hit .250 with three home runs and five runs batted in while playing in 11 games during a virus-shortened junior season. She had also moved over to shortstop after beginning her high school playing career as a third baseman.
Recounting her recruiting experience, Gonzalez recalled losing contact with schools that she had been talking to before the pandemic. She was grateful to see the lengths to which Eastern Illinois went to secure her commitment.
Gonzalez indicated that she was able to speak with Eastern Illinois coach Tara Archibald, as well as the rest of the coaching staff, some athletic department personnel and even a professor in her probable field of study.
“They made such an effort to recruit me, and I really appreciate that,” Gonzalez said, adding that all of the correspondence took place over Zoom. “They went out of their way. They didn’t have to bring on someone from the criminology department [or] their players.”
Shelly Luth, who co-coaches the Marina softball team with Dan Hay, said that Gonzalez has lived up to what she envisioned of the talented infielder in her first impression, calling her competitive, intense and tough.
Luth shared an anecdote that demonstrates just how competitive Gonzalez can be.
“We’re playing this stupid dice game, and she goes, ‘We’re not leaving here until I have won,’” Luth said, recalling a team game of Tenzi in the weight room. “That’s how she takes the field, and even when she’s struggling, she always is just trying harder. She hates to lose, and I love that quality about anybody. I think she hates losing more than she likes winning, like me.”
On the travel softball circuit, Gonzalez plays for a Firecrackers 18-and-under team coached by Sean Brashear. Her competitiveness comes in handy in trying to earn playing time with that group.
“Last year when I moved up to 18s, I started playing third base,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of competition on that team, so it’s really hard to get a spot. If you want to play in the field, you have to hit.”
Both of Marina’s middle infielders have committed to college softball programs. Second baseman Taylor Lane, formerly a Daily Pilot Dream Team selection, has committed to St. Mary’s.
If conditions allow for a high school softball season to be played in 2021, Gonzalez and Lane likely share the same goal of winning in the CIF Southern Section playoffs. The Vikings lost in the first round in their freshman year at Esperanza and then in their sophomore year as the No. 1 seed in Division 2 against Temecula Valley.
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