Rio Sports Live

Former Valley foes now teammates at Texas State

Texas State’s Cassie Valdez, left, and Dalilah Barrera were once high school rivals while playing softball at Brownsville Veterans and Mercedes High. Now, however, they are not only teammates but each other’s biggest fans. Courtesy photo

By MARK MOLINA
RSL

While pitchers Dalilah Barrera of Mercedes High and Cassie Valdez of Brownsville Veterans Memorial were lighting up Rio Grande Valley softball circles in high school, their paths really only crossed during tournament play.

Though head-to-head matchups were rare, the pair shared many things such as a pitching coach, the love of the game and deep respect for each other.

“I knew she (Valdez) was the other good pitcher in the Valley and I guess I was the other one,” said Barrera, a 2016 graduate. “It kind of became like a little rivalry… We knew we had to play 100 percent when we were playing Brownsville (Veterans).”

“I always knew she had a rise ball I had to lay off of,” added Valdez, a 2018 grad. “Of course, swing and a miss. It was really fun playing someone as competitive as me.”

Fast-forward to the present and Barrera and Valdez still have a lot in common as both don matching maroon and gold for the Texas State Bobcats after transferring in prior to the 2019 season.

Though their circumstances were different.

Barrera attended Temple College during her freshman and sophomore tenures where she played under former Texas State legend Kristen Zaleski. During that time Barrera was a two-year all-conference player and an All-American during the 2018 season where she helped pitch Temple to an NJCAA national title.

Those first two seasons were all stops on Barrera’s road toward playing softball at the highest level.

“My ultimate goal was to play Division I softball, but I knew it would take a lot of experience and grit to get there,” she said. “I went the JUCO route and that was the best thing I could’ve done. I don’t regret that; I learned so much.

Barrera has since carved out a nice spot in the Texas State rotation during her first season after finishing with a 9-6 record in the circle, tossing 106.1 innings with 117 hits allowed, 77 runs scored against, 65 earned runs, 56 walks, and a team-high 104 strikeouts.

Valdez, meanwhile, went Division I straight out of high school and attended the University of Texas-San Antonio.

It was a humbling experience to ink a DI letter of intent, but upon arrival, Valdez knew the fit just wasn’t right.

“As a freshman going DI, I was excited to go there (UTSA),” Valdez said. “I felt like I was a hard worker, but I didn’t believe what I would be able to bring to the team was appreciated. I knew that wasn’t the place for me.”

After a rollercoaster semester, Valdez drew interest from Texas State, prompting director of operations Cat Osterman to reach out and get the process of getting her to San Marcos.

“I was thankful for UTSA for giving me the opportunity, but I was glad Coach O was interested,” Valdez recalled. “After getting to know the coaches and the girls, I could tell the team wanted to win. Head coach Ricci Woodard is making me better as a player and a person. I couldn’t ask for a better coach and a better program. I’m so glad I made that tough decision to transfer.”

Valdez appeared in 23 games in 2019 and made three starts as a designated player, where she recorded a .238 batting average with two doubles and five RBIs. She also pitched in five games, worked a total of 9.1 innings, allowed 11 earned runs and racked up four strikeouts.

Now under the same banner, once friendly rivals have become support systems for one another.

Whether it’s Valdez doing whatever she can to be the ultimate cheerleader and teammate or Barrera doing her part to be a leader, the pitching duo can take pride in knowing they are representing the RGV to the best of their abilities.

“I’m a player who isn’t starting or in the lineup but when she (Barrera) is on the mound, I will be there to hype her up,” Valdez said. “I feel that when I see her out there I just say to myself ‘Wow, we girls from the Valley are here. We’re going to show people that we represent the Valley in a good way.'”

“It’s amazing knowing that we’re two girls from South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” Barrera added. “That’s a place that doesn’t get a lot of recognition for softball. I think this was destiny that we’ve become teammates and get to root each other on. We’re each other’s biggest fans. We both want the other to do well and represent the Valley very well. I love it.”

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