Garza signs with UT Tyler

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By Keith Sparks

On National Signing Day, Liberty Hill softball’s leadoff hitter and center fielder Carissa Garza was one of eight Panther athletes to commit to playing at the next level.

On Nov. 14, she signed her letter of intent to play softball at the University of Texas at Tyler, a Division II university.

Garza also considered Incarnate Word, St. Mary’s, and Newman University in Kansas, but ultimately, Assistant Softball Coach Amanda Rodriguez’ experience at UT Tyler and Garza’s campus visit put the Patriots at the top of her list.

“Coach Rodriguez, she played softball there, and she told me that I should check it out, so I just contacted the coaches and they came out to watch me play one game, and after that game, they invited me to come on a visit,” Garza said. “When I went on my visit, I loved the campus, the coaches were really easy to talk to, really nice and welcoming. I wanted to go to a smaller school, and UT Tyler is D2, so it was small but not too small.”

Despite her success as a Panther, Garza wasn’t highly recruited due in part to her size. Eventually, however, the Patriots caught on to her speed and passion for the game, making her signing a no-brainer.

“They actually just saw me for the first time last summer,” Garza said. “I hadn’t really been looked at because of my size. I’ve always been on the smaller side, so college coaches have kind of looked over me. They came out to watch me play and loved how I played. They liked my speed, and the head coach told me the first thing that caught his eye was that he could tell I had a heart for the game and I was out there to win.”

The chance to get more familiar with the campus, her new teammates and coaches is exciting.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it, looking forward to meeting the team and the other 2019 commits who will be there,” Garza said. “I want to start bonding with them and finding out who I’m going to room with. It should be a really fun and exciting trip.”

The speedster anticipates making a big impact on the Patriots from the get-go, considering their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter is a senior this season, meaning Garza could potentially step in and start immediately.

“I’m definitely going to have an impact from the very beginning,” Garza said. “They told me that their leadoff hitter and center fielder this year is a senior, so when I get there, she’ll be graduated. They’ve been trying to look for a leadoff and a center fielder, so as long as I show that I can do it, I’ll be playing.”

Speed is no doubt Garza’s biggest strength, but she plans on improving upon it even further before she heads to Tyler next fall. She’s also focused on improving her defensive consistency, working on reducing errors.

“Definitely getting faster, because at the college level, everything is much quicker and faster,” Garza said. “Being more consistent at the plate and on defense, making no errors, just going out there, playing my game and being error-free.”

Garza will study kinesiology at UT Tyler and hopes to start a career as a physical therapist once her playing days are over.

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