Before the spring softball season even started, Tracy High freshman Mikayla Coelho was being scouted by NCAA Division I programs.
By the end of the season, she got the athletic scholarship offer she wanted from the college she likes best, three years before she will graduate from Tracy High.
As a pitcher, outfielder and first baseman for the Benecia-based Sorcerer travel team, Coelho, 14, got the attention of the University of California, Berkeley, coaches and was invited to attend Cal’s softball camp last July.
“The head coach (Diane Ninemire) told me I was going to play there one day, and I really didn’t think much of it,” Coelho said.
Ninemire made an offer last month, and on April 27, Coelho went to the Bears’ home game against UCLA and met again with the Cal coaches to make her verbal commitment. Coelho won’t sign a letter of intent until her senior year, but for the next three years of high school softball and travel ball, she knows that her college plans are in place.
“It’s kind of crazy. I’m not really used to it yet,” she said.
“I need to work harder at everything I do,” she added. “I need to keep my grades up, which is not that hard for me. I still have to impress people. Everybody is watching me.”
Tracy High varsity softball coach Greg Smith said his best players often commit to NCAA colleges by their junior year, but certainly not as early as their freshman year.
“She’s definitely the first one in my 22 years at Tracy High,” he said, though he added that it appears to be a growing trend, especially as girls play year round with the hope that colleges will notice them. He’s not surprised by the attention Coelho has received.
“She showed me she’s the real deal as far as pitching, fielding and batting,” Smith said. “She has great softball skills and can play more than one position.”
In her freshman year, Coelho, a 5-foot-7 left-handed pitcher and batter, outpaced her varsity teammates in most categories of batting statistics. She batted .530, and led her team in base hits (44), runs batted in (40) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.447).
Sorcerer coach Bill Schroll said Coelho was one of five members of his under-16 Sorcerer team, including three freshmen and two sophomores, to make verbal commitments to NCAA colleges, and he expects three more of his players to make verbal commitments this summer.
“I wouldn’t say it’s normal, but it’s becoming a lot more common,” Schroll said. “They’re recruiting as young as eighth grade.”
He added that summertime tournaments are where NCAA coaches look for players.
“Playing on the right travel team and working with the right coaches makes a lot of difference,” he said.
Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com or 830-4227.