By Syleena Perez
As junior catcher Joanna Larios gripped her bat, she also felt the hands of her guardian angel join her hands to make a game-changing hit.
“The whole time I was talking to her,” said Larios. “Come on, mom. Help me out.”
In the top of the seventh inning of the biggest game in CSU Bakersfield softball history, Larios hit her first career home run as a Roadrunner. She scored the only run for CSUB as it beat New Mexico State 1-0 on Saturday.
CSUB softball head coach Crissy Buck-Ziegler said she knew someone was going to hit a home run in the top of the seventh.
“I knew something was going to happen because how we kept getting out of jam after jam,” Buck-Ziegler said.
Behind Larios’ home run, the Roadrunners beat the Aggies and won their first Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship on May 14.
Larios’ mother, Elsa, had battled lupus in her liver and also suffered from an autoimmune disease for 11 years.
It wasn’t until five months before Larios’ high school graduation, that her illness got worse.
“She was only expected to live one more month,” said Larios.
While in the hospital her mother told her to promise she would play college softball no matter what happened.
But a life-changing phone call would change Larios and her family’s lives. Her mother was granted a liver and would give Larios’ more time with her mother.
However, her mother died on Jan. 15, 2013.
In the moment when Larios stepped to the plate, she knew her mother was with her in that batting box.
“I felt it off my bat, I was like ‘oh man,’” said Larios.
Larios said the feeling of hitting the game-winning run was awesome.
“I can’t tell you or can’t express how [awesome] and what it feels to me,” she said.
Larios’ teammates noticed something different in her last at-bat against the Aggies. She was talking to herself, and she had a different look in her eyes.
“I could see her saying ‘come on mom, come on mom,’ so I was in the dugout saying ‘come on mom, come on Jo’s mom,’” said sophomore outfielder Julea Cavazos.
Before arriving at CSUB, Larios played at Seminole State College in Oklahoma. She batted .338, drove in 47 runs and hit nine home runs. She helped the Trojans earn a spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I National Championships. Last year, she stared in 23 of the 26 games. She had five RBIs, two runs scored and one triple.
Larios is hitting .193 on the season on 88 at-bats with nine runs batted in.
The Roadrunners went undefeated in the WAC Tournament as they earned a bid to the NCAA Division I Regionals in a double elimination format.
Larios said she still couldn’t believe that the team won, but she knew that they could do it.
CSUB will first play against 12th-seeded UCLA on May 20 at 6 p.m. CSU Fullerton and Fresno State are also in the same Regional.
“I am so pumped, just to know we are going to be close by and all our families are going to be there, and that’s what I think that’s most important to us,” said Larios.