A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: VANESSA GOMEZ
Vanessa Gomez (pictured) has opened the season hitting .471 with eight stolen bases
Vanessa Gomez (pictured) has opened the season hitting .471 with eight stolen bases

Feb. 22, 2013

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – There is something special brewing on the campus of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It is in the form of the Lady Hawks softball team; one that is mixed with fresh, young talent and a group of talented returners. The squad is rejuvenated, team-spirited and determined.

The women are off to their best start in 21 years as the team is 3-1 to start the season. UMES has already pulled off two late inning victories and stand among the MEAC’s best in hitting and pitching. There are seven new faces on the squad, six of which were in the starting lineup to begin 2013.

A plethora of players have started the season hot for UMES, but it is the effort of freshman Vanessa Gomez (Belleville, N.J.) that could be the biggest difference.

Gomez has begun the season as the leadoff hitter and starting leftfielder for UMES. Courtesy of her efforts, the team has already accounted for nearly half of the runs they scored in 2012. UMES leads the MEAC with a .339 batting average and also holds the top spot in on-base percentage (.436) and stolen bases (17).

Her play dazzled fans in the opening series against St. Peter’s as she collected a team-high eight hits and made several big plays in the outfield. She finished the four-game set with an 8-for-9 line on stolen base opportunities. Gomez stands seventh in the MEAC with a .471 batting average and leads the league with her eight stolen bases.

 “My speed is the best part of my game,” said Gomez. “It helps while I am on the bases and while in the outfield.”

The Belleville, N.J., native attributes her success to the relationship she has with her father, Juan Gomez.

“My father is my biggest supporter,” said Gomez. “He works so hard at everything he does and he pushes me to be a better person and athlete. He has taught me everything that I know. He’s my role model.”

While the two have always shared a special bond, it was the passing of her mother at an early age that brought them together. Gomez was just three-and-a-half years old when her mother passed away from complications of colon cancer. The death left a void in the family, but her father stepped up and has become everything to Gomez and her two sisters.

Under her father’s guidance, Gomez has grown to become a strong young woman in the classroom and on the field.

Gomez, who is of Cuban descent, can speak both English and Spanish. She received numerous accolades for speaking the latter in high school. She is proud of her academic success and wants to become a physical therapist upon graduation from UMES.

Gomez was a four-year varsity star at Belleville High School, where she excelled in basketball, cheerleading, softball and soccer. Gomez recorded 100 hits with the Buccaneer softball team as a left-handed catcher and was known as one of the top backstops in all off northern New Jersey.

Her solid prep career attracted the attention of Head Coach Sam Douglas. After the two spoke, Gomez believed it was in her best interest to wear the maroon and grey.

“I love the environment at UMES,” said Gomez. “The school has a good education program and once I spoke to Coach Douglas, I knew I had to come here. I could see that the coaching staff was caring and hardworking and I really liked that. Achieving a scholarship to play softball is my greatest achievement as an athlete.”

The addition of Gomez and six others have made it for an exciting time to be associated with the Lady Hawk softball team. Whether it is having the best record in over two decades, winning late-game thrillers or their relentless assault of opposing pitchers, the team is starting to turn some heads.

If the first four games are any indication, Hawk softball should be exciting for many years to come.

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