Wed07302014

Sports

Montalban is a hit in her first year at Loyola Marymount University


Photo By: Courtesy of Hannah Montalban
Photo Courtesy Of Hannah Montalban

As a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, Hannah Montalban hit the first grand slam of her softball career.

The first grand slam of Hannah Montalban’s softball career came at an appropriate yet unexpected time for the Los Altos resident.

Midway through her first season at Loyola Marymount University, Montalban snapped out of a series-long slump with a shot over the right-field fence that cleared the bases and beat Bakersfield 7-6 in the second game of a doubleheader.

“It was unforgettable,” the Homestead High graduate said. “I was struggling at the plate the whole day and was so frustrated. I got behind in the count – I fouled off a few pitches – then I turned on (the ball) and hit it out. It felt like nothing. I didn’t believe it.”

That March 24 grand slam highlighted a season of surprises from Montalban.

Montalban never imagined she would post the squad’s second-best batting average (.328) and top the team in doubles (14) in her inaugural season at LMU.

“I didn’t expect to start as a freshman,” the rightfielder said. “There were 10 freshmen on the team, and I think half of them were outfielders. With so much competition, I knew there was no room for slacking off, and I worked hard so I could get on the field.”

Lions head coach Gary Ferrin took notice.

“Hannah came to us as a bit of an unknown,” he said. “I was sure she would fit at this level but was not sure where. She made an immediate impact with her hitting, and I knew early on we had to have her in our lineup.”

Montalban began the season on the bench, but less than a month later she was proving her worth as a pinch hitter on the Lions’ long trip to Florida in early March. Seeing action in 10 of her team’s 12 tournament games, Montalban batted .438 (seven for 16) and drove in four runs.

“The coach put me in as a pinch hitter, then I started at DH (designated hitter),” she said. “I was on fire from then on and the coach had to put me in the lineup.”

Ferrin soon found a spot for Montalban in right field, a position she wasn’t accustomed to playing. At Homestead, where Montalban made varsity as a freshman, she primarily played shortstop.

“I mostly played infield in travel ball, too, but some outfield,” Montalban said. “But when the (LMU) coach recruited me, I told him, ‘Put me anywhere you need me.’ I consider myself an outfielder now.”

Ferrin noted that it took Montalban “a while to be comfortable” in the outfield, but “she made great progress as the year went on.”

Montalban, who started 38 games, is already preparing for next season. Home for the summer, Montalban said she is working with a trainer and practicing on her own.

“Hannah’s main strength is her real self-confidence combined with her drive to succeed,” Ferrin said. “Now that she has a year under her belt, I expect great things from her going forward.”

So does Montalban, who wants to help LMU make the playoffs.

“We were two games shy of winning league,” Montalban said of the Lions, who went 16-8 in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference and 33-23 overall. “We definitely want to do it next year.”

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