Highly-touted Lady Hornets newcomer Hernandez signs with Holy Family University

Photo by Kevin Nagle

Tori Hernandez, a senior at Bryant High School, signed a national letter of intent today to play softball for Holy Family University, a NCAA Division II school in Philadelphia, Pa.  She was a four-year varsity letterman in Saginaw, Texas, who moved to Bryant. She began her high school career as the only freshman starter to play for the Class 5A Saginaw Rough Riders.

As a freshman, Hernandez was recruited to play travel ball for Texas Elite Easton 18U Gold where she competed two years in the Ronald McDonald College Showcase in Houston.  She also competed at the University of Oklahoma Elite Camp where she was named Most Valuable Player. Both as a sophomore and junior, she was named an All-American Top 100 prospect, and selected as a Scout Softball National Qualifier. Last season, she helped lead Saginaw to a 15-1 record and the eventual District Championship where she was named 6-4A Second Team All-District despite missing half the season due to an injury.

Prior to joining Texas Elite, she was the starting third baseman for the Fort Worth Batbusters who won the USFA Midwest National Championship and competed in the USFA World Series, the VTD World Series, Pony Nationals and the Colorado Fireworks College Showcase.

Hernandez said she is looking forward to playing for Arkansas powerhouse Bryant High School this season. Bryant has won three out of the last four state championships and looks to be a contender in the playoffs again in 2014 under the direction of head coach Debbie Clark.  The team won state championship titles in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Before she even saw Hernandez play, Clark was impressed. “She told me that she was a senior and she loves softball and she was coming with her family here,” the coach recalled of the initial phone call. “My first question was, ‘Tori, you’re a senior. You’ve played softball all your life. How do you feel about coming here to play softball your senior year?’ And her answer wasn’t, ‘Well, I was going to live with my aunt’ or ‘I was going to live with my grandmother but mom and dad made me come here.’ Her answer was, ‘My family is here. Jobs brought mom and dad here. I have a younger brother and sister and we are here because it’s what’s best for the family. I am here because my family is here.’ There was no whining, no excuses. ‘I am here because this is where I’m supposed to be.’

“I was excited,” Clark continued. “I had seen a video but never had seen her pick up a softball but I was excited because of the character that I’d already seen. I’ll never forget that.”

“It was difficult to leave Saginaw my senior year but I’m excited about the opportunity to play for Bryant High School,” said Hernandez. “The program has a history of excellence that I’m looking forward to being a part of. I’m confident Coach Clark will help prepare me for the next level of competition at Holy Family. It’s an exciting time for me. I have always wanted to play softball at a small, Catholic university where I can continue to grow academically, athletically and spiritually. After meeting Coach Davon Ortega and visiting the campus, I knew Holy Family was the perfect fit.”

She added that all it took was one phone call to know she had an instant connection with Coach Ortega.  “She’s a former Division I player and she’s very passionate about the game,” Hernandez said. “I still remember our first phone call … we talked about her coaching philosophy and her love for the game.  The more I learned about Coach Ortega, the more I wanted to be a part of the program she is building.

“And I really love the girls on the team,” she added. “I was fortunate enough to spend time with everyone when I went up for an official visit, and they already made me feel like I belonged.  I knew immediately that even though I was going to be far away from home, I had a family right there in Philadelphia. I had people that were going to be there for me, people that were going to care about me, people that were going to help me succeed.”

At Saginaw, Hernandez was ranked fifth in her graduating class, which consists of more than 600 students. She received the Texas Top Scholar Award and will graduate as an Arkansas Scholar. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is an A honor roll student. She has received class merit awards in English, Science and Math. She is also a member of the Key Club where she received an Outstanding Service Award for taking such an active role in the community.

In addition, she routinely volunteers as a student tutor and provided assistance at the annual Fort Worth Law Enforcement Fair and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Fall Festivals. She has done volunteer work for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Martin County Library and the Martin County Courthouse.

She said she enjoys sharing her love for athletics with the youth, helping to coach local youth basketball and softball leagues. She has volunteered for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Tournaments as well as Toys for Tots Tournaments, and she has helped put together care packages for military personnel who are stationed overseas.  She has also organized clothing drives for local women’s shelters and she volunteered at the 2013 Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony benefitting Speedway Children’s Charities.

Hernandez said she hopes to pursue an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and study law.  She is the daughter of David and Mona Hernandez.  She has one brother, Jalen Hernandez, a freshman at Bryant High School, and a sister Alyssa Hernandez, a fifth grader at Salem Elementary School.

Holy Family University is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and was founded in 1954 by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.  Holy Family is a comprehensive, liberal arts four-year university.  Holy Family fields 13 NCAA Division II teams and encourages its student athletes to be their best, on the field, in the classroom and in life.

Ortega is beginning her fourth year with the Holy Family softball program. Recruiting Hernandez out of Texas, two players out of California and one out of Colorado is part of her continued plan to recruit top prospects nationally and oversee the program’s continued growth.

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