During her senior softball season at American Canyon High School, Adriana Montuya led the Wolves with a .500 batting average, 33 RBIs, 30 hits, eight doubles and seven home runs, and was third with 21 runs scored and two triples.
Yet it almost wasn’t enough to make her want to keep playing.
American Canyon made the playoffs for the fourth straight year, third straight with Montuya. But for the third year in a row, the Wolves lost by the 10-run mercy rule in their playoff opener.
She had enjoyed pitching and playing first base – and having a season-long home run derby with her sister, then-freshman catcher Katherine Montuya.
But then senioritis kicked in, and Montuya wasn’t sure she wanted to play without her sister again.
“I was second-guessing whether playing softball was for me,” she recalled last week. “But I realized quickly that I couldn’t live without knowing whether or not I could go on further with softball because it’s been such a huge part of my life and my family.”
Part of it was burnout, she said. But Solano Community College, after canceling its 2017 season following the resignation of longtime coach Terri Pearson-Bloom, hired Nikki Gentile to take the helm. She’s been nothing but positive for the program since. She not only guided the Falcons to back-to-back Bay Valley Conference titles, but also helped all seven of this year’s sophomores earn spots on teams at four-year colleges.
They all signed their letters of intent on May 10 at the Fairfield campus, with Montuya and Vacaville High product Cesiliya Yarrow committing to the NCAA Division III program at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts.
As she’s done with many high school senior standouts, Gentile helped Montuya appreciate the game in a new light.
“All the people around me were very shocked whenever I said I was considering not playing in college, just because I’m so into it,” she said. “I figured there wasn’t much else for me to do (but keep playing), but talking to Coach Nikki and how excited she was for the future of Solano softball and all the girls she had recruited, I got excited about it again.
“I was very laid-back competition-wise in my senior season in high school. When I got to the college level, everything got flipped upside down and I started from the beginning again. The level is just elevated skill-wise, so my mentality changed a lot.”
She struggled last year for the Falcons, though, while sharing main pitching duties with a sophomore.
“It didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to,” she recalled. “It never really does go as I envision it, but I had dropped in stats batting-wise and was getting very discouraged. But at the end of the season I started to help my team the way I knew I could and how everybody told me to. I just took a little while to get there.”
This season, Montuya posted a 9-5 record in the pitching circle while throwing nearly twice as many innings as Solano’s next two most-used pitchers. In all, she pitched 105 and 2/3 innings, and still led the team with a 3.58 ERA. She finished with 70 strikeouts and 51 walks.
At the plate, Montuya was the fourth-best Falcon with a .361 batting average, 35 hits and 13 doubles, and had 18 RBIs, the seventh-most on the team.
Eastern Nazarene head coach Dani Bishop played for UC Riverside from 2003-05 and likes to recruit on her home coast. Not only will Napa County be represented by Montuya on her team, but also 2019 Vintage High graduate Taylor Brandt.
“Coach Nikki asked me to find out where (Brandt) was going when she played against my little sister and that’s how I found out she was going to the same school as me,” Montuya said. “I still don’t really know her, but I look forward to seeing her out there.”
Montuya and Yarrow visited the ENC campus in September on “one of the hottest days they’ve had” and Montuya enjoyed more than just being east of California for the first time in her life.
“It was really fun. We spent about a week there,” she said. “There are a lot of brick buildings, and it felt really nice to be in such an historic town. The players were all nice, super welcoming. They have so much personality and are so sweet.”
Montuya knew the school would be much colder in the winters, but liked that the Lions have a tournament every year in Florida – another state she’d never been to before.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of,” she said, “playing at the four-year level, being able to go there and achieve so much more than I ever thought I could.”
While Eastern Nazarene beat out eight other schools to win the New England Collegiate Conference title this year, Solano went 14-0 in winning the BVC over only four other schools – only two of which played the Falcons close. But thanks to Gentile’s philosophy hard no matter the opponent, Montuya said she’s ready for a bigger stage.
“There was always that feeling against some (BVC) teams that you basically knew you were going to win, but she always wanted us to stay intense and focused no matter who we were playing,” Montuya said. “If you drop down to a level that isn’t yours, it that takes so much away from your game.”
Recruited by ENC as a pitcher, Montuya looks forward to being in the middle of the action.
“During high school, I always felt that pitching might have taken away from my hitting. But now I feel that being able to pitch and hit just increases the amount of help I can give to my team and helps boost my energy for the team. ENC is known for their home runs, so hopefully I can get back into that.”
“It’s a beautiful place and it’s still on the coast, so I wouldn’t be missing too much – just my family, but I’ll have a new family over there.”
The older daughter of Shawna Gardner and Jose Montuya plans to major in clinical psychology.
Another of the seven signees was Vintage High graduate Jamie Batto, to Academy of Art University in San Francisco – the same school Montuya’s mother is attending for photography.
“Jamie is an amazing person,” Montuya said. “She was literally the light of the entire team – always smiling, always with great energy. I have so much love for her. She loves drawing and she’s super talented. I’m definitely going to miss her, a lot.”
Although Quincy is in the heart of New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox territory, Montuya doesn’t plan to shift her allegiance from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants.
“It’s a long-running joke in my family – my mom doesn’t really like (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady, so I always joke about becoming a Patriots fan,” she said. “I’m already a semi-fan of the Red Sox, but I have to stick with the Bay Area, through and through.”