After a sophomore year that saw her miss half the season with a pulled hamstring, a lot has happened to Indio junior softball player Heather Morales.
It began last summer when she showed enough prowess and flashed enough velocity (including a consistent 62-63 mile-per-hour fastball) that she received and accepted a college scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii.
Hawaii coaches may not have known they also were getting a record-breaking power hitter, but Morales has certainly turned into one this season.
Last week in a 7-3 victory over Coachella Valley of Thermal, Morales stamped a place for herself in the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book. Her two home runs not only gave her the state lead at 20, it put her in the No. 2 spot all-time on the list for most home runs in a season behind the 27 long flies that Shannon Colquitt hit in 2009 for Los Angeles King-Drew.
Now, after her record-breaking performance, and excelling all year at the plate and in the circle, plus overcoming injury, the 3.0 GPA student-athlete has been named the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Week.
It’s very rare for a girl from the Coachella Valley to be offered a big-time college scholarship for softball.
“I haven’t visited Hawaii yet, but it’s always been where I wanted to go,” Morales said. “When they offered, I took a chance.”
Hitting versus pitching
“I was recruited as a pitcher first, and then a first-baseman and hitter.”
As a pitcher, Morales’ favorite pitch is a drop curve. She also has a change-up, screwball, and a riseball to go with the 60-plus fastball.
At the plate Heather’s favorite pitch to hit is an inside screwball.
“I’ve always been able to hit. Recently, I’m hitting more home runs. I need to keep working hard on both my hitting and pitching.”
Marissa Araujo, the Rajahs’ first-year coach, recently had to leave the team because of obligations involving her becoming a correctional officer.
“When the team heard I won (State Athlete of the Week) they teased me because I’m only a junior, but all the seniors are proud of me. One of them put it all over on Facebook and Twitter.”
“Getting recognized and a record will push me to work harder with my travel team and for next year.”
“We have a lot of seniors on the team and they teased Heather a little about getting honored, but it was good teasing,” said Rosa Zamarripa, who came on board this year as Araujo’s assistant and guided the team this week for a CIF Southern Section playoff game.
“She’s our leader out there,” continued Zamarripa. “For her to do it on both sides day-in and day-out, and she plays the toughest position, Heather’s proven herself as someone we can count on.”
Joe Morales, Heather’s father, played baseball, football and ran track growing up in the area. He currently works for the Coachella Valley Water District. Her mother, Malia Morales, who works in a medical office, did rifles and flags in high school.
Little brother, 13-year-old Seth Morales, plays football. “He’s the quarterback and he’s good too,” said big sis proudly.
Team: “The Angels and Hawaii of course. In football, the St. Louis Rams.”
Player: “Torii Hunter.”
Baseball movie: “Sandlot or Benchwarmers.”
Car: “A 2-door Jeep.”
Subject in school: “History.”
Vacation spot: “The Virgin Islands. I have friends that have been there and I saw gorgeous pictures. The water is beautiful.”
Advice for young girls
“Dream big and don’t give up on those dreams.”
Unfortunately for Morales and the Rajahs’ faithful, they’ll have to wait until next season to welcome back their young coach, after the girls made a long trip to Fullerton and lost 3-0 to Sunny Hills in the first-round of the CIFSS Division 4 playoffs on Thursday.
It also means Heather ends the season currently tied for the state lead with Sierra Romero of Vista Murrieta of Murrieta. Romero hit her 20th home run in a playoff win over Corona.
On the bright side, with 30 career home runs, Morales also already secures a spot in the state record book on that list with a full season remaining.
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