Utah’s Bridget Castro stood in the batter’s box with No. 22 Arizona State’s Kelsey Kessler staring her down. The game was tied, with Heather Bowen on third and Kristen Stewart on second. The scoreboard showed one out and a 2-2 count. Kessler pitched and Castro launched the ball over the left fielder’s head, scoring Bowen for Utah’s first walk-off win of the season.
Before the pitch, Castro was determined to bring Bowen in and win the game for the Utes.
“I really wanted to win. They had started a great rally for us, and I wanted to finish it, so I was just determined to get it done,” Castro said.
After she saw the ball go over the leftfielder’s head, Castro broke out into a giant smile.
“I said, ‘Yes!’ I was so happy. I just had a smile right away, I knew that we had won that game and that she [Bowen] had scored,” Castro said.
Castro’s recent late-game heroics come as no surprise, however, as she was a star in high school. In her Calvary Chapel high school career, Castro was named an ESPN All-American and helped lead her team to the California Interscholastic Federation championship in 2011. She was named 2011 CIF Player of the Year, 2011 L.A. Wave East Regional Player of the year, and appeared on the Press-Telegram and MaxPrep’s all-California teams.
“It was honestly a dream. We had worked so hard, and we knew it was something we could totally do. It was one of the best experiences,” Castro said of winning the CIF title.
Castro ended her four-year career at Calvary Chapel with a .568 batting average, 181 RBIs, 13 doubles and 40 home runs. In addition to being one of the best softball players in California, Castro graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was also the captain of her volleyball team.
It took a lot of hard work to be an all-star in the classroom and on the diamond for Castro.
“A lot of late nights, a lot of just softball, school and studying,” Castro said. “I didn’t really do much besides that. I was really focused on trying to get good grades. Just being diligent and sticking to my plan.”
Castro knew Utah was the right place as soon as she stepped on campus.
“When I came here, the environment and just the feel of everything felt right for me,” Castro said. “I could see myself coming here, and right when I stepped foot here, I knew this was the place for me.”
In her freshman season, Castro made an immediate impact. Castro’s first collegiate hit came in her first NCAA game against Boise State. Castro singled to left field to open her collegiate hitting account.
“It was a little pressure off of me, that first hit — once I got it, I was able to settle down and get back to playing softball,” Castro said.
In 2014, Castro was tied with Marissa Mendenhall for most home runs on the team with seven. Castro also started every game, ranked second in RBIs with 44 and scored 30 times in her debut season. Her efforts led her to being named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team, and an honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 team.
In her sophomore season, Castro was just as productive. Castro led the Utes in RBIs (42), was tied for second in doubles (10), and was third in total hits (48). Castro was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic team, and helped her team reach the NCAA Tournament, where the Utes reached Regionals.
“It was so much fun — and a lot different than regular season,” Castro said of the NCAA tournament. “That was our goal from the beginning, so we were just able to have fun at that point and just go with it and see how far we would go.”
This season, Castro has appeared in 36 games, starting 31. She currently has a .241 batting average, six doubles, two triples, one home run and 10 RBIs.
Though she’s seen a great deal of success in her time as a Ute, Castro’s favorite part of being a member of the team has nothing to do with softball.
“Just the traveling and the fun times we have before the games. It’s the not-softball part that’s actually the most fun,” Castro said.
Once Castro steps onto the field, though, she knows it’s time to get serious. If the Utes are to make it even farther than they did last season, they will certainly need Castro to be dialed in.
“Once it gets to softball, it’s business,” Castro said. “[We] Definitely [want to] make postseason, try to host — that is definitely a goal — go farther than last year and just make it a long run.”