Some people say that success depends on who you know. In the sports world, knowing the right people might be helpful, but if you don’t have a good attitude and a strong work ethic, it won’t matter who you know.
For sophomore pitcher Rio Sanchez of the softball team, her personality and gumption led her down from the Colorado mountains to an Arkansas mound, making her the latest gem to be found in a state known for its diamonds.
“The pitching coach for the Colorado Rockies is a friend of mine and his daughter was playing against [Sanchez] in the state championship and he was like, ‘Hey, you need to get this kid,’” head softball coach David Kuhn said.
Sanchez started at UCA in fall 2017 and has since pitched 129.2 innings, facing off against 587 batters and only allowing 23 doubles, four triples and eight homeruns. She has started 21 out of 36 games played, completing eight of those games — five of which were shutouts.
In February of 2018, Sanchez pitched her first no-hitter at the college level in a game against Grambling State. Then in February 2019, Sanchez completed her second career no-hitter in a game against UAPB. Sanchez is the only pitcher on the team to accomplish this feat within that time span.
On Feb. 26, Sanchez was also named as the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week, but she remains humble.
“I’m just hoping that I’m wearing the right uniform most of the time, and hopefully I show up at the right time,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has been playing softball since elementary school.
“I started really young. I started summer select ball when I had just turned 7,” Sanchez said.
Her dad — who was her coach in Eerie, Colorado — placed her on a team full of older girls who didn’t cut Sanchez any slack.
“[My teammates] were all like 10 years old and I was a little 7-year-old that was barely making it with them,” Sanchez said.
But Sanchez convinced herself that she could make the team, and she didn’t look to ‘Coach Dad’ for any favors.
“My dad has a really good work ethic like: ‘Work hard. Do everything you can to get better. If you don’t like your results, then change them,’” Sanchez said. “So, I was always practicing. [Softball] has been like my job, my thing, for my whole life.”
Due to her size difference, initially Sanchez didn’t get as much time in the game as she wanted. By the time she was 8, she decided that she might have a better chance of getting game time if she were to play from the mound.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I want to pitch, because I want to play every play,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the values she has learned on the field have shaped her whole life, especially when it comes to facing failures.
“Failure has become a lot more comprehendible,” Sanchez said. “I failed so many times. I mean, this is a game of failure — it’s [a matter of] who’s going to fail first, who’s going to fail the most.”
She said she has learned to work with her failures, to build off them and keep moving forward. She applies that same mentality to her schoolwork. When she first came to UCA, she had no clue what she wanted to major in.
“I was like, ‘Just put me in classes so I can do good,’” Sanchez said.
However, she said she just recently spoke with her advisor about pursuing a public relations major.
“I love talking to people, meeting people and networking,” Sanchez said. “I had some teammates who were like, ‘Hey, you might like [PR],’ and my advisor was like, ‘Yeah, you probably would like [it].’”
She still isn’t sure what her future job might involve, but she is sure of two things.
“I would love to work in Colorado, and I would like to do stuff with sales and advertising, making sure people’s voices are heard,” Sanchez said.
But, if she changes her mind about working in public relations, she has many talents to lean on.
“[Sanchez] is very high energy, very positive. She’s — I want to say eclectic, but I don’t even know what that means,” Kuhn said. “She listens to EDM music — it’s weird! And, she’s random. She does artwork. She does henna tattoos. She’s really creative.”
Sanchez expects to graduate in 2021, but in the meantime, the coaches are just glad to have her.
“She lightens the bullpen up,” pitching coach Jenny Parsons said. “If there’s music playing, she’s dancing. She’s energetic, and just a good person to be around, and she works extremely hard.”