The lineage of elite shortstops who have passed through the No. 23 ASU softball program over the last decade has been astounding.
Last year, Chelsea Gonzales ended her four-year career with the Sun Devils with the sixth-most home runs in school history while hitting .353 in her senior campaign.
“Jade is just a competitor, sometimes to a fault,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “She is willing to go the extra mile for her teammates, and her game-sense is just crazy. I could literally put her on any position... you can genuinely feel that she loves the game.”
This offseason, Gortarez transferred to ASU from the University of Texas after starting 40 games at shortstop as a freshman for the Longhorns.
Gortarez is originally from Riverside, California, and she tallied a .967 fielding percentage in her first year of collegiate softball. The sophomore is one of five transfers on a team loaded with new talent.
“It’s just the family culture here. It’s a lot more family-oriented and I am really excited about that,” Gortarez said of her decision to come to ASU. “I have family out in Mesa, and it’s only a four-and-a-half hour drive from my parents, so they are going to be out here (at games). That’s what I wanted. I needed a home here, and I have really found it at ASU.”
Growing up, Gortarez was a star athlete on the diamond. However, her journey to becoming a Division I shortstop did not begin on the softball field.
Gortarez grew up playing baseball, and she was a member of the U.S. Women’s National Baseball team during her time as a varsity baseball player in high school.
Gortarez spanned the globe, playing in Japan, Canada and South Korea, and she helped her team to a 2015 gold medal at the Pan-American Games.
In addition to her duties as a shortstop, Gortarez brought the heat on the mound, recording a 1.75 ERA at the 2016 WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup.
“I got recruited (for softball) off of the baseball field,” Gortarez said. “...I love softball. I love playing it, but baseball is my first love, and it’s always going to have my heart.
Gortarez made her transition from baseball to softball during the summer in between her sophomore and junior year in high school.
Gortarez noted that the two games are similar, but there were some adjustments going between the two playing fields.
“At the end of the day, a ground ball is a ground ball, and a pop-fly is a pop-up,” Gortarez said. “There is just a big timing issue, I would say at the beginning (of the transition) with the rise ball...that’s the toughest pitch to hit in general.”
Under her new head coach, Gortarez has enjoyed her time in Tempe thus far, even noting that Ford and herself are remarkably similar.
Growing up, Ford played baseball as well, and she loves the competitive attitude that her new shortstop brings to the field.
However, there is one difference between the player and the coach that cuts deep into their relationship. For Gortarez, the cut even bleeds blue.
“She’s a Dodgers fan. I’m a Giants fan, so we kind of battle a little bit,” Ford said. “...She’s from the Riverside area, so she is kind of in that area where I was like ‘Why aren’t you an Angels fan?,’ and she was like ‘Dodger Blue.’ We will probably see each other at some spring training games up here shortly.”
As for how the middle infield is setting with a new shortstop, team members said the chemistry is working just fine as ASU makes its final tune-ups before the 2018 season begins.
“I know I have only had a little bit of Fall and into the Spring of playing with her, but she’s honestly one of my better friends that I have had on the team,” ASU redshirt senior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz said. “As a middle-infielder, you have to have that relationship between each other. We kind of know where we are going to be, and we talk on and off the field.”
Gortarez will don the maroon and gold for the first time when No. 23 ASU hosts No. 12 Tennessee this Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.
“I am just excited in general for this team,” Gortarez said. “We really have something special, especially since we have been back here in January. Everything has clicked, and there are just so many things that we have gone through already. We are a close-knit team and I think at the end of the day, it’s just going to help us.”