Lillianna Garcia demonstrates her softball pitch Monday at the Longfield Center in Hanford. Garcia was added to the Mexico's junior national team in September, and will be playing in the World Softball Games in Columbia and the Pan American Games in Peru.

A Hanford High School senior has caught the eye of Mexico's junior team, and now she’s headed to play softball in South America.

Lillianna Garcia made it onto the Woman's Mexican Junior National Team this year, and will play with them at the World Softball Games in Colombia from Nov. 27-Dec. 3. From there, it's off to the Pan American Games in Peru, starting on Dec. 5.

The Mexican National Team, which acts as the feeder program into the Olympic games, also takes on players from the United States with Mexican family. This would include Garcia’s father, who has Mexican citizenship.

Garcia has been playing softball since was 9. She took spots around the field before she found her place as right-handed pitcher – and it was her performance on the mound that caught the attention of Jorge Araujo, her coach at CSU Fullerton, where she’s committed to go after graduation. Araujo suggested she try out.

For Garcia, softball has become a passion, one that challenges her and her teammates. Meanwhile, there's always the misconceptions about the game just being an easier version of baseball. But that, she said, couldn't be farther from the truth. 

“A lot of people think that just because it’s girls, everything is easier, but these are elite athletes and they train just as hard as other people," Garcia said. "So it’s definitely hard to play.”

Garcia, who boasts a pitching speed of around 64 mph, added that the larger ball and closer distance to the plate only give the illusion of an easy hit. 

“When you see the movement and how fast some of these girls can throw… from that 43 feet, it’s really hard to hit.”

Garcia's road in wasn't an easy one. After her first tryout for the Mexican team in February, she suffered in April, the night before she was set to do her second tryout. But Garcia remained undeterred. She returned to the mound and made her first appearance on June 9 in Mexico City, and was officially added to the roster last month. 

For Garcia, it isn't just a point of pride for her as an athlete, but a connection to her Mexican heritage. 

“Being Mexican is a big thing for me because my grandparents are from there and all my family is Mexican," Garcia said, adding,“because those girls are from Mexico, and the things that they talk about, and the way that they talk, and the food that they eat — it’s really cool.”

Her mother, Anjelica Garcia, has been with her the whole way. For her, the highlight of it all hasn't just been watching her daughter strike out her opponents, but also seeing her have fun with her peers. 

“It makes me very proud just to see the person that she’s becoming, the teammate that she is. Whether she’s on the field or she’s off the field, she’s her teammates’ biggest fan — and it’s very noticeable,” she said. "But it makes me very happy that all her hard work and sacrifice and dedication are allowing her to have this experience."

Garcia confirmed that she has every intention of going into the Olympics, and will keep pitching at CSU Fullerton when she graduates from high school.

Those wishing to help her family with travel expenses can do so with the Venmo @Anjelica-GuzmanGarcia.

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