SAN JUAN — Korrie Cantu wasn’t sure if softball was for her, at least not at first.

It took some poking and prodding to get her to try to pick up a bat and glove, but she never set them down once she did.

“My dad always tried to get me to play softball and I didn’t want to play, but I had seen my friend play and I wanted to give it a try because it looked fun,” Cantu said. “My dad signed me up for rec ball on the last day and from then on, I’ve just been in love with the sport.”

Now a senior at PSJA High, Cantu — one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most elite sluggers during her four-year varsity career — announced her intention via Twitter to sign to play college softball at Texas A&M-San Antonio, committing to joining the Jaguars’ first ever recruiting class.

“It’s always been a dream of mine, so when I first got in contact with a college coach I was very interested,” Cantu said. “It was super exciting knowing that I was going to be able to pursue my dream. My family and I were just super excited.”

Texas A&M-San Antonio, an NAIA university established in 2009 which is set to join the Red River Athletics Conference for the upcoming academic year, will be fielding its first softball squad and year of athletics competition in 2020-21.

The Jaguars athletic department will sponsor men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer and softball during its initial year of competition with plans to add men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball after the completion of an on-campus recreation facility before the 2022-23 school year.

“When I first heard that the assistant coach from Concordia moved, I thought maybe this could be a better opportunity for me, so I immediately got in touch with her and everything kind of fell into place,” she said. “Being a first-year program, I think it’s going to be really exciting and kind of makes me nervous a bit, but I think with coach Nicole (Dufour) and the girls things are going to go really well.”

PSJA High senior Korrie Cantu announced her commitment to Texas A&M-San Antonio via Twitter, becoming the second Rio Grande Valley softball star to join the Jaguars first ever recruiting class. Courtesy Photo.

The Jaguars program will be inheriting one of the Valley’s most potent bats and dangerous base runners in Cantu.

The Bears second baseman led her team at the plate as one of PSJA High’s most consistent hitters who walloped the ball and almost always found a way to reach base.

During her four-year varsity stint, Cantu recorded a .462 average, a stellar .528 on-base percentage and a staggering 1.248 OPS. She also tallied 120 runs scored, 61 RBIs and 43 extra-base hits, including 10 home runs.

“When I go up there, I feel really confident no matter who’s pitching. But when I hear on the coaches’ side from the other team saying ‘She’s small, move up,’ that just motivates me to hit the ball to the outfield and hit that open green,” she said. “I think hearing all of that helps me. It just makes me want to prove to anyone just because I’m 5-foot-1 doesn’t mean all I do is bunt. I hit.”

Cantu also earned a reputation as a prolific basepath bandit and as a sprinter on the Bears track and field team.

She swiped bags left and right, stealing 56 bases over her 100-game high school career while achieving a 78.9% success rate.

“It’s my favorite part. Running the bases is my favorite part. In travel ball, whenever it was open substitution I would tell my coach ‘Put me in I’ll run!’ I’ll score and then I’ll go back out there and keep running. I just really enjoy running a lot and I loved running track.

PSJA High second baseman Korrie Cantu fields an infield ground ball during a 2020 game. Cantu played four years of varsity softball for the Bears. Courtesy Photo.

Cantu emerged as one of PSJA High’s veteran and statistical leaders during her senior campaign that was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic after just 19 games.

She led the Bears with 25 runs scored, nine walks and eight steals, while ranking second on the team in batting average (.531) and OBP (.603) and third in slugging percentage (.938), RBI (15) and extra-base hits (12).

Cantu helped lead the Bears to a 16-3 record, an undefeated run through the Mission Fastpitch Tournament and a championship game appearance at the Laredo ISD Border Olympics.

Cantu and PSJA High, however, ended the season with much to prove after starting 2-0 in district after big wins over La Joya High and rival PSJA North and as the 12th-ranked Class 6A team in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.

“When we came out on top against (Edinburg) Vela in the Mission Tournament, people saw that we could do a lot of damage. Then in the Laredo Tournament we had beaten Harlingen South, one of the top teams in the Valley, and everybody heard about it. And in the Seguin Tournament, which I’m really proud of, we beat Calallen which went to the state finals last year for 5A. Right off the bat we had scored on one of my home runs actually, and when we got home everyone was telling us, ‘Wow you guys have really done a lot, y’all are doing really good,’” Cantu said.

“Once the UIL came out saying that all spring sports were canceled, I cried at first, but I knew I had to face the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish my senior season. Now I just don’t really feel anything. I’m still playing and practicing so it doesn’t really hurt as much, but I just wish we would have been able to finish,” she said.

Cantu will be joined at Texas A&M-San Antonio by Edinburg Vela senior middle infielder Kameryn Casares, who committed to the program earlier this month, giving the Jaguars a pair of foundational players from the RGV and a dynamic battery cementing the team’s middle infield for the foreseeable future.

amcculloch@themonitor.com