Sharyland Pioneer senior Andrea Ortiz signs a national letter of intent to play college softball at Texas A&M-San Antonio during a ceremony Wednesday evening in Mission. Courtesy Photo | Sharyland Pioneer High School

Sharyland Pioneer’s Andrea Ortiz was unsure of what her softball future would hold when the 2020 high school softball season in the Rio Grande Valley was interrupted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nine months later, Ortiz — now a senior — cemented her future plans to play collegiate softball by signing a national letter of intent to attend Texas A&M-San Antonio, a brand new NAIA program, and become a key piece of the Jaguars’ first recruiting class surrounded by supporters at a signing ceremony Wednesday evening in Mission.

“I’m really, really excited about this new experience that I’ll be facing and I’m excited to see what’s to come. Of course, it took a lot of hard work to get there, so I know that the best of the best are there and I can’t wait to play amongst them,” Ortiz said. “Especially since it’s brand new, I’m really excited to be part of this new program that’s barely starting up and see where we can go.”

The Sharyland Pioneer senior became the third Diamondbacks’ softball standout to ink a college letter of intent since the ongoing pandemic stopped their season. Ortiz joined recent Pioneer graduate Alexia Hernandez, a freshman playing at Prairie View A&M, and fellow senior Kayla Monjaras, who will be headed to play softball at Coastal Bend College after this year.

Furthermore, Ortiz joined two other decorated RGV softball stars who also signed to play for the Jaguars during the pandemic and are already on campus this fall in San Antonio: Edinburg Vela graduate Kameryn Casares and PSJA High graduate Korrie Cantu.

“I know Korrie and Kameryn are both up there and they’re both really great players that I’ve either played with or against and I’m excited to get play with them once again,” Ortiz said. “And since it’s closer to home, I know my parents can drive up there one day. It was close to home and a small school, which is what really drew me there.”

The Diamondbacks were off to one of the hottest starts to the season of any Valley high school softball team in 2020, racing out to an 11-2 record before the season was cut short.

That led Ortiz and many of her teammates to intensify their training and play lots of summer softball on select teams, which helped greatly in her recruitment and gave her a newfound appreciation for the sport to which she has been so committed.

“I was pretty bummed out that our season had to end like that, but I think everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I’m kind of glad, though, about the direction my future is headed and I think my teammates will do really well this upcoming season.”

Ortiz is set to celebrate another momentous milestone as she’s set to graduate from Sharyland Pioneer in December. She will take the spring semester off in order to maintain her four full years of collegiate eligibility, which will give her additional opportunities to hone her game and watch her younger sister Daniela, a sophomore, and the Diamondbacks prepare to make a playoff run in 2021.

“I’ve accumulated so many college (credit) hours that if I continued now, I wouldn’t be able to play my full four years there, so I’ll be taking the spring to train harder and work harder just to be prepared for when I do get there in the fall,” Ortiz said. “I’m just tremendously grateful.”

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Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch