Mexicano powers through the game

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Meghan Montemurro

At five-foot-four, shortstop Angelena Mexicano is not built like the prototypical power hitter. Her statistics have told otherwise, especially during the past three seasons.

After failing to hit a single home run in her freshman campaign, the senior captain connected for 11 her sophomore year in 2006 and last year broke Illinois’ single season home run record after she and fellow senior Shanna Diller each belted 16 long balls. In the still young season, Mexicano is well on her way to breaking the new record, having already hit five home runs in only 15 games.

“It was just a transition freshman year coming from California to (Illinois) and getting involved with the college life,” Mexicano said. “I was just not focused and it just wasn’t my year. From sophomore year to junior year to now, I’ve progressed tremendously.”

This past weekend at the Golden Panther Invitational, Mexicano hit .286 with two home runs – including a grand slam – and seven RBIs to pace the Illini.

While the grand slam may have surprised some, it was the third of Mexicano’s career and not even her most memorable. In 2006 during her sophomore season against Penn State, the strong-armed righty hit a walk-off grand slam to defeat the Nittany Lions, 7-5, resulting in the first-ever sweep at Penn State. Mexicano called it her “best memory at (Illinois).”

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After struggling with adversity during her first year, the San Jose, Calif., native credits her recent power surge to experience and offseason workouts.

“I always think about my size, and I wonder how (the opponent) sees me when I come up to bat,” Mexicano said with a laugh. “But other than that, it’s just all confidence and your mindset, and weight lifting classes really developed my strength.”

Mexicano has started all 175 games of her four year career, though she has never been completely satisfied with her performances and is constantly looking to improve, whether it’s on offense or defense. Each year, Mexicano has set a personal goal, whether it be raising her batting average or committing fewer errors on defense.

While Mexicano may have wanted to play baseball as a child, she has clearly found her home on the softball diamond. And it doesn’t look like Mexicano will leaving the diamond any day soon after being drafted in the third round by the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch. Twelve years after first being introduced to the sport by her father, Mexicano’s passion for the game is still going strong.

Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan spoke highly of her starting shortstop and is confident Mexicano will succeed at the next level.

“She has great enthusiasm,” Sullivan said. “She’s a smart player who loves to have the ball hit to her, especially in pressure situations. She has showed great leadership, and I’m really pleased with her shortstop play.”