Isabelle Ortiz was 12-4 this season with a career-best 1.93 ERA.
CHULA VISTA Isabelle Ortiz got hooked on softball fast.
“Izzy,” a recent graduate and pitcher at Bonita Vista High, first started playing in the Imperial Beach Girls Softball League as a 10-year-old.
Many weekends she would play her team’s scheduled game, then play a game or two more against older girls. Number issues allowed a team to “bring up” a player from the younger division to fill their lineup.
“I really had fun playing in as many games in a day as I could,” said Izzy. “It was an opportunity to play — and play against the older girls.”
Next year, Izzy will again be playing against older girls — in the West Coast Conference at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.
“I was pitching against a Northern California team and (Saint Mary’s coach Jessica Hanaseth-Rodgers) came to watch,” said Izzy, who was her class salutatorian with a 4.61 GPA. “I gave them a video, took a visit and went to a camp. It happened all so fast.”
In 2011 another “pick-up player” situation allowed her to join the Santee All Stars after her Bonita Valley Girls Softball League was over. She helped Santee to second place at nationals.
Starting at 13, her club ball experience with the highly competitive The Next Level readied her for high school.
“Before the season my freshman year Emma Trussell and I went up to the BV field to get an idea what it would be like,” she said. “It turned out we got to introduce ourselves to the coaches who were working on the field. It was kind of like a private tryout.”
The next time they saw her she was on crutches after suffering a knee injury playing freshman basketball the day before tryouts -- the start of an unfortunate trend.
Freshman year was a dream. She started virtually every game with a lineup including future Ohio State-bound Alex Vargas and 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year Hannah Flippen.
“I was blessed to have an awesome defense,” she said, finishing the year 18-1 and named first team All-Mesa League and second-team All-San Diego Section.
With Izzy’s young arm wearing down, the Barons got to the Division II final, but fell to Rancho Bernardo 9-4. Two days earlier Bonita beat the Broncos 18-17 in the semifinal.
“I tried to fight through it,” she said. “It was crazy. I had no games off. Every game I gave my best, but it was exhausting.”
Sophomore year and another basketball injury the day before softball. This knee injury would later require surgery, and mark the start of two years of frustration.
The healing took longer, and Bonita again fell to Carlsbad 8-4 in the section final. She was 10-3 in her shortened season.
The following season was shortened as well after a painful change in her relationship with the coaching staff and she left the team early in the year.
“Junior year I finally had my surgery, but I was struggling,” she admitted. “It was a really difficult time for me.”
She ended her Bonita career under veteran coach Ron Pietila. While their Mesa League title streak ended, she had fun alternating starts with talented sophomore Mia Marinakis.
“At first we struggled,” said Izzy, a co-captain. “We didn’t seem to have the same drive, but as we started competing, we all came back together.”
She finished the season 12-4, with her career-best ERA of 1.93 and her second no-hitter.
She can’t wait to see how many times she can play against the older girls next year at Saint Mary’s.