Photo courtesy Jerry Hannula
Finishing their regular season 21-17 overall and 11-10 in OEC play. The gauchos softball team had three players named for the All-Orange Empire Conference Team.
Nelsa Delagente was selected to first team as pitcher for leading 18-17 overall record with 3.27 ERA. And joining her is her teammates Haliegh Wilkerson and Drew Moore, who were both named to the second team.
Wilkerson led the team five home runs for the year. She was second in both RBI (27) and stolen bases (5) and Moore tied for third on the team with a .364 batting average. Moore lead the team in triples (3) and finishing second in extra-base hits (14).
Moore started all 38 games at shortstop, leading the team with 65 total bases.
But for Delagente, 29 it is not just about winning or losing, she is not like a lot of college softball players. Delagente is a sophomore in college and just two years ago she hadn’t played softball in 7 years.
But Delagente has had a great season and two increible years at Saddleback, including pitching a no-hitter against San Diego Mesa last year which made Saddlbeack history since 1988.
Delagente, along with 200 other student-atheletes, made it to the student-athelte honor roll and Delagente also earned Scholar Baller status as sophomore.
But for Nelagente, softball is different to her and doesn’t not plan on playing softball after this year or maybe ever again, she jokes that she is too “old” to play softball anymore but her awards and stats would say differently. Delagente believes that if she was younger she would of pursed softball as a career instead.
But Delagente has had a long softball career, she has been playing softball since she was 9 years old back in the Philippines.
And it all started with a pair of brand new pair of shoes Delagente desperately wanted or specifically needed.
Delagante’s sister played softball and Delagente noticed that if you join the softball team they give you brand shoes. And Delagente’s family was at a disadvantage and they could not afford their daughter new shoes.
“They said if I wanted new shoes, I’d have to join softball so I did,” she laughs.
But softball was different in the Philippines for Dalagente, she had to train hard and win to send money back to her family. She describes softball as work but when she came to the U.S, softball was an escape from reality for her.
When Delagente was 19 years old and still in the Philippines, she got a phone call on her softball field to hear that her mom unexpectedly passed away.
“It changed everything, I felt like I didn’t wan’t to be here anymore (the Philippines) or I didn’t have a reason to,” said Delagente.
Delagente took a one way ticket to the U.S where she began to work so she could send money back to her brother, sisters and father who now had to take care of the family.
But something changed within Nelsa and she decided to go back to school and earn a degree.
Delagente’s first year pitching for Saddleback was a tough one for her, she was going through a lot of hardships including a divorce. She said at one point she had no place to live and had to resort to sleeping in her car.
But when she started to pitch at a game, the world would quiet down a little.
“I would work all night, go straight to school in the morning, and there would be two hour where my teammates were warming up and Coach Nick would let me sleep in his office for a few hours before the games,” said DelaGente.
She says that her coaches and teammates are like family to her and were helpful with her busy schedule and were nothing but supportive of her.
Delagente describes playing softball for Saddleback as an escape for her but her talent rolls naturally off her hand.
“Everything that was going on in my life, every time I pitch, all I’m focusing is to deliver that throw,” said Delagente. “It’s kind of like my escape from the real world.”
Delagente is a talented, natural, enthusiastic player but softball is not the career for her. But she says she will miss playing the sport and she will miss looking forward to seeing her teammates and playing in general. Now Delegente is pursuing a nursing career at Saddleback.
Delegente is gifted with pitching but sometimes it was just a good way to cope with life.