EDINBURG — The moment Monee Montilla first picked up a bat at the age of four, she instantly fell in love with softball. A gymnast up to that point, Montilla was selected to a softball All-Star team, so she pushed all her chips into the game she grew to love.

And after the sophomore’s first season on the varsity level, which included Montilla leading Edinburg Vela with a .510 batting average, 47 RBIs, two home runs and into the fourth round of the playoffs, she has officially arrived.

Now, Montilla is “the new face of Edinburg Vela softball” and The Monitor’s All-Area Newcomer of the Year.

“I’ve loved this sport all my life and I want to have fun everytime I come out here. I think I surprised myself with what I did and it was fun for me and the team, especially to go that far with some of my friends,” Montilla said. “I love hitting. Hitting is my strong suit, so obviously, to perform well there always gives me the satisfaction to keep on going.”

And she kept it going all season long for the SaberCats. After spending her freshman season playing on the JV Dark team getting reps in, Montilla’s addition to the varsity lineup provided another heavy hitter for opponents to deal with during the 2018-2019 campaign.

“You got to hit bombs. Everytime you square up a ball, you feel it in your hands, even if you hit it into the outfield, it doesn’t matter, it feels good. It gives me that adrenaline rush, and that’s what I love about it,” she said.

Her work at the plate always starts early. While still in the dugout, Montilla eyes the opposing pitcher like a hawk, analyzing what’s being delivered and what she will face her next time up. And when she finally steps into the batter’s box, there’s no guessing. Montilla knows what’s coming her way, and more than half the time, it was a swing to bring momentum and life to her team.

“The biggest thing you saw was that she was a team-player. She didn’t back down in the big moments,” Edinburg Vela coach Jon Maples said. “She stepped up to the plate and had a huge home run for us against Edinburg High in district. In the playoffs, she came through every round, every series, she had a huge clutch hit to get an RBI or just to get the momentum going. She’s a very clutch-hitter and very disciplined.”

Now that she’s put the rest of the Rio Grande Valley softball world on notice, Maples said the expectations will only grow.

“That’s something we’re going to mention to her when school starts in August, about being one of our leaders and pretty much the face of our program,” Maples said. “I think Monee is going to take it and move on the next two years, so when you see young girls in the junior high ranks, they’ll say that’s who I want to be in a few years, that’s who I want to be at Vela.”

With two years left to ball out on the varsity level and keep the winning tradition at Edinburg Vela alive, Montilla is ready for the challenge ahead.

“I love it, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love everything that I do. Everything I do is with a purpose and I feel like if I keep working I’m going to reach my goals,” she said.