PHARR — There’s Jordan, Tiger and LeBron.
In Mercedes, there’s Mika.
“Everybody is all about Mika,” Mercedes softball coach Kristy Leal said. “Younger players are all like ‘I want to be like Mika.’ She doesn’t even need a last name.”
Mika Vento — she does have a surname, though she may not need it — dominated on the mound for the Tigers and has been named The Monitor’s All-Area Softball Pitcher of the Year.
Vento, a rising senior, claimed a 9-3 record on the mound with a 1.178 earned run average (0.746 ERA prior the final game of the season, in the second round of the playoffs), a 0.953 WHIP and she struck out 104 batters in 72.1 innings. She walked just 22 batters and didn’t hit any, a mark of an accurate pitcher.
Vento, however, doesn’t just perform at a high level in softball. She’s an all-district volleyball and basketball player. She won the 100-meter dash at the district meet and third in the 300-meter hurdles, she was recently named an All-American cheerleader and she shows goats with 4H.
She’s also a straight-A student.
Leal said she’s lucky to not only have Vento, but also to have a high-caliber athlete whose favorite sport is the one she coaches — softball.
“She just does everything — there’s never a question if she’s going to do this or do that, you know she’s going to be there,” Leal said. “Nowadays kids are all specialized — you don’t see kids like Mika, who just do everything, and at such a high level. She’s someone special.”
Vento started pitching at age 4. Well, she started mimicking her sister, five years older than her, while she was taking lessons.
“I would see her doing it and say, ‘I want to do that so I would get a ball and do it like I was taking lessons.’” Vento said. “I was just there so the instructor said she’d give me lessons and teach me how to throw.”
Fast forward to years later and Vento remembers one of her earliest organized games pitching.
“I almost threw it over the fence because I forgot to release the ball,” Vento said. “It was still something new to me and I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t for me.’”
Luckily for Mercedes, she stuck with it.
“The experience really shows with Mike,” Leal said. “She’s such a leader for us and shows it in stature and character and how much time she devotes to the game. She’s tremendous and is going to do some big things.”
At 10, Vento had “tweaked” that release point issue and that’s when she “started pitching really well for my PONY League team and coaches from select team started asking me to play with them,” she said.
Advanced in school and extracurricular activities and a meticulous planner, Vento said on Tuesday that she had verbally committed to McLennan Community College in Waco. The Highlasses finished the season last year at 27-26, falling in the Region V tournament against Weatherford College. McLennan is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association and Vento said she believes this is the best route to take to get her to her goal — playing Div. I softball.
“I didn’t want to settle for something I didn’t want,” Vento said. “I didn’t want to go DII or DIII when my goal is to go DI.”
Today, Vento has an arsenal of pitches including a fastball, changeup, rise ball, drop ball and curveball, her preference of choice when she’s looking for a strikeout. However, playing with former Weslaco catcher and The Monitor’s 2018 All-Area Softball Offensive Player of the Year Audrey Escamilla, has her pitching a lot more than throwing, even though she can crank up that fastball to 60 miles per hour.
“Audrey does a lot of setup pitches,” Vento said. “It’s not so much trying to blow the ball by the hitters but to mess with their minds and throw them off. It’s so much fun playing with her.”
Leal remembers one time when Vento approached her to let her know she was going to be 20 minutes late for practice. A stunned Leal could only say OK.
“Then she said she had to show her goat for one of the shows,” Leal said. “Up until that point I had no idea she did that, but if anyone could do that with everything else she does it would be Mika — just Mika.”