EDINBURG — Edinburg Vela senior Kameryn Casares, who excelled on the court, on the diamond and in the classroom, has signed to play college softball at Texas A&M-San Antonio, committing to being a foundational player in the Jaguars’ program.
“I think being able to play in college is one of the best things ever because not a lot of people can say that they played at the next level, and it’s always good to give it a shot and maybe do well over there and hopefully start and work my way to the top,” Casares said.
Casares’ commitment to Texas A&M-San Antonio carries extra weight given the fact that the university will be launching its first season of intercollegiate athletics during the 2020-21 academic year.
The Jaguars’ athletic program was given the green light to join both the NAIA and the Red River Athletics Conference, which is composed of 12 member institutions spread across Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas with the addition of Texas A&M-San Antonio.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking also because it’s a new program, so they still need to try to find what works, the girls and build chemistry,” Casares said. “But I know the coach has previously worked at Concordia and she sounds like she means business. She said it’s not just going to be all incoming freshmen, so if you want a spot you’re going to have to earn it starting position wise. I think it would be kind of cool to start off the program new and hopefully make a name for it.”
“She’s going to do great,” Edinburg Vela softball head coach Jon Maples said. “She’s a type of player that can come in and make your middle infield super strong. She can play either spot in the middle infield and she’s a team player. She’s going to do whatever needs to be done, and I think she’s really going to make that program really excel in the first year.
“A lot of coaches out of state saw what she could do defensively. She can come in and really sharpen up their defense in the middle part of their infield and I think she’s really going to make that team look defensively sound.”
The Jaguars’ softball program will be adding one of the Rio Grande Valley’s top defensive players who knows what it takes to scrap for a starting position.
Casares, a slick middle infielder, has seen time in the field for the SaberCats and her travel team at second base, shortstop, in the outfield and behind the plate as a catcher. Playing up the middle defensively is almost second nature to Casares on the diamond, who honed her elite defensive skill set while competing for playing time as a freshman in a talented Vela lineup.
“Not everybody is meant to be a middle infielder. I remember talking to some of the outfielders and they were like, ‘How do you do it when the ball is coming that fast? I’m scared.’ But honestly, I would work more on defense,” she said. “In the beginning of my high school career, I wasn’t a hitter. I wouldn’t do hitting, so I told myself that I need to be good at where I’m at and keep my position, so I would stay after on Wednesdays and work on fielding with my dad.
“I just kept working at that if I wasn’t going to be in the lineup. I thought I might as well produce in some other way and be great at what I do.”
Casares’ hard work on the field paid off and she became a key bat and glove for the SaberCats during her four-year varsity career. In 99 career games at Vela, she tallied a .322 batting average, 45 runs scored, 29 RBIs and 10 extra-base hits, including one home run.
Casares also maintained fantastic marks in on-base percentage (.444) and OPS (.868) while achieving a sterling .950 fielding percentage.
“Her winning (district) flex player of the year twice her freshman year and sophomore year really showed that she’s a specialist,” Maples said. “She’s a multi-positional player and that shows what type of athlete she is. She’s a very good student athlete and she’s a very smart kid. She knows the game and she never really gets rattled. Whenever she’s in the spot to make a play, she’s there.”
By her senior year, Casares was one Vela’s unquestioned veteran leaders, who hit for a .366 average, scored 13 runs and tallied five RBIs before the University Interscholastic League moved to suspend and later cancel the remainder of all spring sports competition.
Casares also led her teams in the classroom, earning Academic All-State honors in basketball from the Texas Girls Coaches Association this past season. She credits her leadership style to the help of older teammates and the culture of success in the Vela softball program, which she hopes to bring with her to Texas A&M-San Antonio.
“It was amazing, honestly, to get to learn from each girl and see what they all could do and what they all bring to the table because it wasn’t just nine people playing and that was it,” Casares said. “We also had a great bench and whenever someone was off, we knew we could count on someone else to produce. Just learning from them, and especially, since I was the youngest my first year, learning from Taylor (Chavez), Naomi (Reyes) and Julia (Cordon).
“Everybody had something to give.”