Freshman softball pitcher Jerzey Gutierrez has given a much needed lift in the MCC pitching rotation this season, bringing consistency and confidence to the position.
Last season, the Lady T-Birds softball team had issues with pitching, which could be viewed as a reason why they went 11-33 on the year. The pitching staff had a conference worst 11.52 ERA and gave up 53 home runs, while also giving up 529 hits.
Gutierrez has a 4.43 ERA (12th best in the conference), 60 strikeouts (tied for 7th best in the conference), and a 8-4 record in 16 appearances so far this season. At times Gutierrez plays in a game but does not start which is why her appearances exceed the number of games in her record.
Gutierrez, who’s been playing softball since she was seven years old, credits her abilities on the diamond to her father who has been her coach for club teams.
Gutierrez hails from Valley High School in New Mexico where in her senior year, she and her team made it to the state championship for the first time in over 20 years.
Gutierrez was actually the only pitcher on that team and pitched every game that season except for a couple outings where they would face an opponent that Valley would be able to easily get a victory against.
Gutierrez came to MCC when her recruiter connected her to MCC softball head coach Grady Moorhead.
Gutierrez was coming out to Arizona for her sister’s softball tournament. Gutierrez and Moorhead would meet and talk before touring the campus.
Moorhead wanted to see Gutierrez pitch, and within 10 minutes, he was sold and offered Gutierrez a scholarship and a place on the team.
Gutierrez would accept the offer a few months later and has not regretted it since.
“It was the best thing I could’ve done because I’m doing so great, I’ve never been this happy in my life,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez has had to overcome things in her life, one of them being her size.
Standing at 5-foot-1, Gutierrez isn’t able to throw as hard as other pitchers who are taller.
Gutierrez began to master generating spin on the ball to race it past the batters she faced as opposed to trying to throw so hard the batters couldn’t catch up to the ball.
Gutierrez’s best pitch is a rise ball, which is a pitch that is thrown with upward trajectory and backwards spin to impart a rising motion.
This pitch is so successful because as the ball is coming towards the batter it looks like a strike and a pitch they can put in the field of play. However, as it gets closer, it rises out of the zone and the batter has a more difficult time making contact because of the motion of the ball.
As a freshman adjusting to a new team, lifestyle, and level of softball, Gutierrez has had to adjust to having more support than she originally anticipated at MCC.
“I’ve never had people rely on me and let me be successful,” said Gutierrez, “people have always doubted me for my size and me in general so having these girls being so motivating and happy to have me is so helpful. I didn’t know about college and the girls can help me this much.”
Another unforeseen obstacle Gutierrez has had to navigate through was battling an injury she sustained against Phoenix College on March 4.
Early in her pitching outing, her back began to spasm to the point where she was unable to walk and would have to miss three doubleheader matchups against Gateway, Glendale, and Paradise Valley Community College.
Not being able to help her team on the field, or help cheer them on, was hard for Gutierrez as her pain was so severe she didn’t attend the games she missed.
After her injury healed, she would make her comeback against Arizona Western College on March 23 in a 14-6 game where she pitched all five innings that were played.
Many times this season, Gutierrez has been in situations where her team needs her to be able to shut their opponent down.
When players need to clutch up, many have their ways to calm down in the moment, whether that’s deep breaths, or superstitious rituals as long as they can get themselves in the zone and be successful.
When Gutierrez needs to rise to the next level, she will almost blank her mind and just play the game she has played most of her life.
“When I’m pitching I dont think at all,” said Gutierrez, “I don’t want to think I need to do this or that because that makes me overthink. So I just think of nothing and just being myself and knowing I can throw the pitch.”
A big reason Gutierrez was also drawn to MCC was the dental program the school has. Gutierrez wants to become a dental hygienist because she feels that it is a good career where she can make good money and be independent.
With the success of Gutierrez and her team, MCC is poised to make a push to the postseason for the first time since 2019.