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Vanderford makes her mark with the Monarchs

Texas Monarchs’ third baseman Sara Vanderford rounds the bases after hitting her first professional home run. Vanderford currently leads the Monarchs in both hits and RBIs during her rookie season.
Submitted photo by Peter Vives

Vanderford makes her mark with the Monarchs

Vanderford tries to beat the tag in the Monarchs first ever game against the Texas Smoke. Submitted
photo by Peter Vives

Vanderford makes her mark with the Monarchs

Thursday, July 4, 2024

While many collegiate softball players see their careers end after college, a select few have found opportunities to play professionally. One of those is former Texas State third baseman Sara Vanderford.

Vanderford signed with the Texas Monarchs of the Women’s Professional Fastpitch league after her collegiate career and now finds herself playing in the exact stadium where she led the Bobcat offense.

“It was everything I could have wished for,” Vanderford said. “Growing the game is so important. To have people say yes, come out here and play and grow the game is amazing. Then whenever you can bring it back home here at Texas State and in the state of Texas, it just says a lot about the program, the area and the game of softball in general.”

After helping the Bobcats to both a Sun Belt Tournament Championship and a NCAA Tournament appearance, Vanderford was contacted by Monarchs General Manager Alex Powers about playing for the upstart team.

“She asked me if I had ever thought about playing professionally,” Vanderford said. 'It’s kinda a funny story, she commented on the conference my sophomore year and she has followed my career ever since. To have her in my corner and remember who I was, it means a lot being at a mid-major. … I’m just super thankful she remembered me and gave me this opportunity.'

Vanderford and the Monarchs start their first season in the WPF that features the Texas Smoke, Coastal Bend Tidal Wave and the Hub City Adelitas while signing some of the best players in the game today.

For Vanderford, the opportunity to compete against and play with some of the top level softball players in the country was too good to pass up.

“You are surrounded by some of the best in the country,” Vanderford said. “I have an opportunity to play with girls from Georgia, Kentucky, Florida State and Duke. Those are some big names. Just to fit in, be here and play with them has been nothing short of amazing. I’m super thankful that I said yes and decided to take a chance.”

Despite it being Vanderford’s first season, the rookie third baseman has already made an impact for the Monarchs.

Vanderford currently leads the team in both hits and RBIs while helping lead the team to a 4-3 overall record. The Monarchs are also coming off a four-game sweep of the Adelitas last weekend.

For Vanderford, the recent success at the plate has been about sticking to the basics while also being back home where she started her collegiate career.

“At some point, you have what you got,” Vanderford said. “I’m not trying to change or fix everything. It’s just going back to the mechanics and trusting yourself. [It is also about] understanding if I made it this far, it is for a reason. Also being at home, I feel comfortable here. Yeah it’s different being in another color, playing with different girls and coaches but again being at home has made it comfortable.”

Though Vanderford is playing with new teammates, the team chemistry between the Monarchs has made the transition easier.

“It’s different but it could not have been with a better group of girls,” Vanderford said. “We have three veterans and the rest are rookies. It’s been a learning process all together, so it’s fun. Me and Devin Flaherty actually played together in Florida in 2021 over the summer. So having her here has made it an easier transition. It’s fun to continue learning from her and everyone else on the team. They bring something different from their respective programs.”

One of Vanderford’s favorite moments of the season was the season opener against the Texas Smoke.

Not only did Vanderford have the support of her former Bobcat teammates and coaches in the stands, but meeting up again with former Texas State pitcher Jessica Mullins.

Only this time, her Bobcat teammate was in a different uniform and playing for the Smoke.

“The only crazy thing was when [Jessica Mullins] was on the other team,” Vanderford said. “Then Coach Woodard was in the stands along with [Karmyn Bass and Katarina Zarate]. That part is funny because they are not in the dugout but they are there in the stands. It’s been awesome.”

While Vanderford looks to make her mark in the league, she also hopes can help grow the game to allow future softball players a chance to play professionally.

“It gives the little ones something to look up too,” Vanderford said. “Growing up, I didn’t hear anything about pro softball except for the Olympics. Not just WPF or [Athletes Unlimited], just seeing the game grow has been amazing.”

cmcwilliams Twitter: @ColtonBMc

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