Sitting in the stands, if you’ve wondered who the Ladybirds are talking to when they are shouting “Come on Bella” or “You got this Bella” from the dugout, it’s freshman Jaleena ‘Bella’ Macias.
Since the start of District play, the El Campo Ladybirds have a new first baseman. Macias, who started the season on junior varsity has taken over the position which senior Karsyn Russell held last year.
Russell, who pitches and plays first base, only played in the field during the preseason. Once District started, Russell was called upon to pitch and the Ladybirds needed a corner infielder. Ladybirds coach Roxanne Cavazos dipped into junior varsity and pulled up Macias.
In her short time with the team, she’s made herself known with some hard hits and some big defensive plays.
In most games, Macias is only used as a defender, allowing Russell the Ladybirds’ four-hole hitter to pitch and bat.
However, when Macias has gotten the chance to bat, she hasn’t wasted it.
In 16 at-bats in District play Macias is batting .563, with nine hits, three doubles, six RBIs and four runs.
“She’s not playing like a freshman, she’s playing like a veteran,” Cavazos said.
The Ladybird freshman only had limited at-bats against the District’s other three playoff teams Needville, Sealy and Fulshear. She has cleaned up against Brookshire Royal, Stafford and Wharton, with an on-base and slugging of 1.338 in her limited at-bats.
With a team full of upperclassmen, nine retuning seniors, earning a spot on varsity this year was a tough with lots of competition.
During tryouts, Macias caught Cavazos’ eye.
“She hit a ball and it was a shot,” Cavazos said. “I just came off my stool and said, ‘Who’s this kid?’”
At the time, there wasn’t anything for the freshman on varsity so Macias went to junior varsity, but she was still on Cavazos’ radar.
Against Fulshear to open District, Russell was needed to pitch and finally, a spot opened and Cavazos knew who bring up. Macias was added to the roster to play first base.
Macias, a natural third baseman when she plays select softball, flipped over to first and has played in every District game.
“I can’t wait to continue to watch her grow,” Cavazos said. “Everyday at practice she wants to get better. Every opportunity she gets into a game, she’s going to swing out of her shoes. She’s going to do anything to stop a ground ball. She’s just one of those freshmen that want to play and is going to do anything to play. She’s not going to complain. She’s going to get the job done and it’s very rare to find athletes like that.”
Before getting being added to the team, Cavazos talked with her to explain the role that she was going to play on the team. With nine seniors and plenty of good hitters, the Ladybirds were in need of her glove, not her bat.
In District this season, the freshman has made her fair share of big plays.
Against Sealy at home, she made a diving grab on a foul ball at first base and, over the course of District, has used her long legs to stretch out and make big grabs.
“She’s dug so many balls and she’s gotten me out of trouble, she’s picked a lot of bad throws,” senior Ashley Lilie said. “We’re blessed to have her. She fits right in with all of us. She’s younger than us but she’s quite tall. She’s like our sister though. She’s very outgoing and soft-spoken, but whenever it comes to her swing, her swing is deadly.”
Macias who normally played on the other side of the hot corner didn’t do much stretching out at third base.
Now at first base, her dance experience from when she was younger allows her to do the splits, which gives her the extra reach that is sometimes needed when trying to get outs on close calls.
Against Wharton at home earlier in the season, Macias was able to play her normal position, third base the whole game.
“My first thought coming into the game was (coach) is putting me in my primary position,” Macias said. “She’s letting me bat in the lineup. I have to show her what I can do because I continue doing that.”
The freshman took Wharton for three hits, a double and had two RBIs.
Macias only batted sparring the rest of the way, but the game with Wharton might be a good barometer for what could be coming in the future.
“She has exceeded (my expectations),” Cavazos said. “She’s going to keep exceeding them if she keeps playing at the level she’s playing at.”
As the playoffs roll around, it’s unsure if Macias will be getting many at-bats.
However, if District is any indication, she’ll be counted on pretty heavily to make big plays on defense.