With third baseman Skylar Broussard coming in on an expected bunt, catcher Hayleigh Galvan throws to senior shortstop Katie Castellon after a runner attempts to steal third. With a dive, catch on a short hop and tag, Castellon makes the out look easy – just like everything else she does.
“Katie has been our unsung hero,” Fresno State softball head coach Linda Garza said.
Whether it’s on the field making plays or in the batter’s box, Castellon is a stand out athlete.
“She was able to get some clutch hits at Stanford in the opening game, and when she hit the game-winning home run versus Notre Dame for us to clinch that … I feel like that moment allowed her to have a breakout season that she is having right now,” Garza said.
A breakout season, indeed. In the Mountain West Conference, Castellon leads the league in slugging percentage and is third in batting average and on-base percentage. She is hitting .442.
“I was brought up into [softball],” Castellon said. “My dad played baseball. My mom played softball. And they started me when I was 4-years old, and I stuck with it ever since.”
A four-time varsity letterwinner, Castellon became a pivotal player at St. Mary’s high school in Stockton. With four home runs, six triples, nine doubles and a .525 batting average in her senior year alone, she was bound to play collegiate ball.
“I remember watching her play. She was feisty,” Garza said. “She’s someone any coach would want.”
Coming into the softball program her freshman season, Castellon only made 20 starts in the infield. Even with that she was among 10 Bulldogs to post a .900 or better fielding percentage, collecting 83 putouts and 16 assists.
She continued to prove herself more and more the following season as she maintained a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in the 42 games she appeared in, specifically in the second base role.
“The ability for her to go from a non-starter into a very selective role and then into a starter her last two seasons, it is a testament to who she is and her work ethic.”
Castellon eventually got the starting job at shortstop her junior year.
“It was my time to take over that spot and own it,” Castellon said. “I was very grateful to get the starting [job] and now I just want to leave it all out on the field.”
Just as she does in the classroom.
Castellon has received Academic All-MW in 2016 and 2017 as well as 2017 MW Scholar-Athlete and 2016-17 NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete.
“At the end of the day, I was always here to get my degree,” Castellon said. “That was my number one priority, so just remembering that and keeping that in mind and putting school first at the end of the day.”
Castellon wants to pursue firefighting after college. She will receive a degree in law enforcement, to follow in her father’s footsteps.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to be here at this school and playing for this team and this college. I love it, and I’m grateful for the four years I’ve had here,” Castellon said.
As of now, Castellon plans on enjoying the games she has left with her team.
“It’s the last time that this team will be this team. So I’m just taking it in and enjoying it,” Castellon said.
Just like Castellon, Garza will enjoy the time she has left with her starting shortstop.
“It’s great to see when good people get good results. It just warms your heart because that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Garza said. “I’m gonna miss who she is as a person.”
Castellon and the ‘Dogs are No. 1 in the Mountain West Conference, boasting a 12-3 record. They will head to No. 2 Boise State this weekend to play a three-game series.
“We’ll take Boise one game at a time and worry about the standings in the end when they really matter,” Castellon said. “I just want to enjoy [every last] game.”