Ortego’s humbleness proves to be key in leading team to state finals

By: TRACEY JAGNEAUX
Sports Editor

After being named the Evangeline Parish and District 5-3A Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row, one might think that all of those accolades would fill a person with an enormous amount of conceit.
But, those that know Karli Ortego know that is the farthermost thing from the truth.
In fact, Ortego’s team first concept not only showed her true senior leadership, but was one of the main reasons why the Lady Panthers were able to make the deepest run to the Class 3A title they have had in several years.
Prime example. Last season, Ortego was a fixture in the line-up at the plate. But, because of some injuries during the season, Ortego was replaced in the batting order for most of the entire year.
After healing, Ortego could have sulked about not getting the chance to put the bat in her hands. But, because she believed in her team mates and the system in place, Ortego just shrugged it off and humbly went about doing her job on the mound.
“We were very fortunate and blessed this year that our freshmen stepped up for us and brought a lot of talent to the table,” stated Ortego. “So, not getting to bat was just fine with me. I just decided to go out on defense and do my job and knew that they were going to pick me up at the plate.”
And, what a job she did. Ortego threw 147 innings in the regular season, allowing only 29 earned runs and held a 1.78 ERA. She struck out 196, walked only 24 batters and held opponents to a .145 batting average.
About the only thing that has eluded Ortego throughout her career is a state championship title. Since her freshman season, the Lady Panthers have inched closer and closer to that goal, getting as close as you can this season as they reached the Class 3A championship game.
Unfortunately, the Lady Panthers were not able to secure the trophy, falling in the finals to Caldwell Parish. That loss would be enough to bring any warrior athlete like Ortego to tears.
However, the tears that were shed from the four-year player were not because of the loss, but because she knew that this would be the last time she would step on the field to do battle with her sisters of the diamond.
“After the final game, I was not upset that we had not won the state title,” said Ortego. “We had met out goal of the season already and that was to make it to Sulphur. I was just trying to play in the moment and remember it all. What really upset me was knowing that I was leaving the program, my team mates and the coaches. It was the sentimental thought of not being able to play for Pine Prairie again.”
When asked to look back on her high school career and about her legacy with the Lady Panthers, Ortego’s humbleness shone through even more brightly than before.
“I don’t think I have left a legacy here,” commented Ortego. “I was just playing the game. I know this, I have been super blessed with very good coaches, team mates and people that support us. Overall, as the years have gone by, our team has become closer. This year we did not have drama or issues and it allowed us to clear our minds. I think that is why we had the success we had this season. My growth since I was a freshman has come because of my time here.”
Now that her high school career had ended, the 4.0 GPA student Ortego will focus on one thing she knows is most important in her life; her education. Ortego is planning on going to LSU-E in the fall to begin her studies in electrocardiography and transfer to LSU Health and Science Center in New Orleans to complete her coursework.
Ortego has not ruled out continuing her softball career, as she has been in contact with the LSU-E staff about the possibility of playing on the next level.
Nevertheless, if that does not pan out, Ortego knows that it would not be the end of the world.
“If it is meant to be, it will be,” said Ortego in a matter-of-fact way. “If it doesn’t happen, I won’t be disappointed. It would be the first time in a long time that I won’t have to juggle softball and school.”

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