Esperanza’s Emily Gomez triumphed in the face of adversity

Esperanza pitcher Emily Gomez is all smiles during a game.
Esperanza pitch Emily Gomez went 18-2 with a 1.63 ERA this season.
(John J Gibbons)

When the sun rose and fell on big game after big game for Anaheim Esperanza softball this season, there was senior Emily Gomez, donning her customary face shield in the circle and giving each Aztecs opponent her best fastball.

There she was on May 20, one-hitting Villa Park in a 1-0 victory. There she was on June 6, holding the mighty bats of No. 1-ranked Norco to two runs in Esperanza’s semifinal victory. There she was in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game against Eastvale Roosevelt, outlasting Mustangs starter Priscilla Llamas in a 3-2 victory.

In each moment, she wasn’t thinking about getting the next batter out or escaping an inning. Rather, Gomez would replay the lyrics to her favorite rock songs in her head; most frequently, “Angel’s Wings” by Social Distortion.

“I triumphed in the face of adversity,” the song goes, and so did Gomez.

Gomez’s unflappability in the biggest of moments made her a standout this season and The Times’ softball player of the year.

Across 116 innings pitched for the Southern Section champions, Gomez amassed an 18-2 record, 105 strikeouts against just seven walks and a 1.63 ERA.

“When she pitches, nothing bothers her; she never shows any emotion,” Esperanza coach Ed Tunstall said. “She’s just a blue-collar kind of pitcher.”

Her effort against Roosevelt, pounding the zone with pitch after pitch, will stand as the last game of her softball career. Gomez is attending Boise State and plans to study nursing, choosing to solely focus on her academics rather than also trying to juggle playing a sport.

“I don’t think it’s hit me 100% yet that it’s actually all over,” Gomez said.


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She’s putting away her glove for a different goal. When she was just 3 years old, her 5-year-old brother died from a condition called laryngomalacia — a condition where the esophagus isn’t fully developed — after being in and out of the hospital for surgeries. Ever since, Gomez has wanted to be a nurse so she can help others.

“It’s also, I feel, taught me a lot about knowing what I want,” Gomez said of her brother’s passing, “because not everything is guaranteed, and going after what I want and what I feel is important.”

After an incredible season spent going after what she wanted on the field, Gomez looks ahead to pursuing a different purpose.