HIDALGO — Like many of the other high school seniors throughout the Rio Grande Valley, Hidalgo’s Carolina Carbajal watched her final seasons in three different varsity sports end abruptly and quickly in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak as schools shuttered and sports stopped.
In a matter of days, her farewell seasons in softball and track and field were cut short after she and the Hidalgo girls basketball squad were eliminated from the postseason.
“We went down in Round 2 on a Friday and I remember after that on Monday, I was back playing softball because we had a game that Tuesday. I turned in my gear for basketball and was out at my first softball practice that same day,” Carbajal said.
“The day I found out was a Friday. It was our fourth district game and that was when UIL sent out that notice that it was going to be postponed. We were playing La Feria and they were already here, so that was our last game of the season. At that time, we just thought it was going to be postponed; we had no idea it was going to be completely canceled.”
But despite a late start and premature finish to her senior softball season, Carbajal maximized her time in quarantine by earning an offer from and signing with Texas A&M International in Laredo.
Carbajal, who played shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield spots for the Pirates softball squad, was a multi-year letterman in four sports and played varsity hoops and softball all four years of high school. Her athletic versatility and year-round conditioning helped her improve unilaterally on the court, diamond and track.
“It helps a lot to be an all-around player,” she said. “I also played volleyball and that helps a lot with my footwork. Then I went straight to basketball and then I had softball and track going on at the same time. I was always active, so that helped me (in all sports).”
She was one of the Pirates’ most consistent sluggers, posting a .429 batting average between her junior and shortened senior seasons. But Carbajal also thrived as a shooting guard on the court.
She helped her team clinch a fourth consecutive district title while earning Sub-5A All-Valley First Team and All-Valley Offensive Team recognition from the Rio Grande Valley Basketball Coaches Association.
But when the Dustdevils offered, it was an easy call for the middle infielder to make.
“Softball has always been my favorite,” Carbajal said. “Ever since I played travel ball my goal was to play college ball and it wasn’t until recently that I also got interested in playing basketball, but softball was the first choice.”
Carbajal picked up a glove for the first time at 4 years old and never put it back down.
After first being introduced to baseball, she quickly picked up softball learning from her mom who doubled as her first head coach. Carbajal credits her parents for teaching her everything she knows about the game and propelling her into travel ball and a prominent high school career for the Pirates.
In her last full season at Hidalgo, Carbajal collected 21 hits, 11 extra-base hits, six RBIs, three home runs and a career-high .488 average. That was enough to catch a few sets of eyeballs at the conclusion of her junior year.
Carbajal joined a new travel team and played in showcases and camps at Texas A&M Kingsville, UTSA and Our Lady of the Lake, among others which got her some recruiting exposure. Then once softball season rolled around again, she was determined to show scouts what she could do.
“My assistant coaches helped me make a video,” Carbajal said. “After the season stopped I didn’t stop. I would stay after practice until about 8 or 9 p.m. to get some reps and video going. Even after the season got postponed, I kept practicing here to finish the video.”
Coaches at Texas A&M International found Carbajal’s tape online and promptly offered her a scholarship. Now, during what should be the stretch run of her senior season, she’s tirelessly training and running through team drills to prepare for her freshman debut in 2021.