By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Female Athlete Of The Year - Quite The Catch(er)
If life is a race, then 2012 Riverbank High graduate Amanda Lopez is winning.

Talented, intelligent, athletic and motivated, Lopez commands attention with an ever-present smile and a contagious desire for success.

And the race is far from over.

The Bruin grad will attend California State University, San Bernardino, this fall on the backing of a partial softball scholarship. She joins the NCAA Division II program for its 26th season in the spring of 2013 to take part in the Coyotes' quest for a first ever California Collegiate Athletic Association title and third trip to the NCAA tournament.

Lopez will compete for the role of starting catcher, as CCAA honors team selection Alex Mitchell (catcher) finished her final year of eligibility in April.

"Hopefully I perform better than the other catchers and get that starting position," Lopez said on Monday. "I have a good bat and hopefully I get some good hits in the preseason."

While Lopez enters San Bernardino as an early recruit and potential true freshman starter, she leaves Riverbank as one of the most impressive student athletes in school history. The four-year softball star with varsity patches in both golf and volleyball as well displayed her talents with a sensational senior campaign and was an easy selection as The Riverbank News Female Athlete of the Year.

"I never considered myself a great coach, but one of the best things I ever did was put Amanda behind the plate (as a freshman)," Riverbank softball coach Cassi Ross said. "When she came to high school she was a really good second baseman, but I needed a catcher and a first base and my catcher played good at first base. I told Amanda she was a catcher before our second league game and she was already picking off runners by her first game behind the plate.

"Amanda is the kind of kid who does whatever the team needs her to do."

The position change was an instant success for Lopez, who already had bolstered impressive skills as a hitter during her eight years in travel softball with the Lady Panthers and R&R Gold. The slugger now had a position to challenge her and the benefit of training with four-year ace and current Simpson University pitcher, Carlye Avey.

Three years later, Lopez was well-known as one of the top catchers in the Sac-Joaquin Section and played a huge role on a young 2012 squad that challenged some of the best teams in the area and went 2-2 at the end of conference play to wrap up the season.

She smashed a key home run to lead Riverbank (3-9 Trans Valley League) to one of two wins over Escalon (11-12 overall) and even gave eventual Division IV SJS champion, Oakdale (27-3-1), a scare after a 2-0 Bruin lead into the fifth inning. Between travel softball and her final season of high school, Lopez sports five home runs across the past year of play.

"She has always been a great hitter, and she is one of those athletes that constantly wants to get better," coach Ross said. "She has a pretty swing and a fantastic approach to hitting. She knows how to go to the plate with a plan every time and that is hard to teach."

The same keen approach led Lopez to accolades as a student as well. She completed three advanced placement classes at RHS as a senior and managed a 4.0 grade point average throughout her final year as a Bruin.

"One of the best things about Amanda is that she is a not just an athlete, but a true student-athlete," Ross said. "She is one of those kids dedicated to what she does and still gets good grades.

"She was a dream."

Despite the extra pressures of tough classes, travel and prep softball, Lopez still found time to benefit Bruin athletics in both the fall and winter seasons. She played volleyball as a freshman and sophomore, carded key scores for the Bruin golf team as a junior, then came back to hold a key role as varsity libero for the volleyball team in 2011. When injuries left the team without a setter late in the season, Lopez stepped in to provide important assists for Riverbank hitters.

In the winter, Lopez stayed busy by scorekeeping for the varsity boys (2010-11) and girls (2011-12) basketball teams.

"Riverbank is such a small community and a lot of girls made connections with their teams," Lopez said. "We are a family in softball and we became like sisters."

Lopez's actual sister, Aimee Lopez, was also a terrific softball player for the Bruins and started her true freshman season with Felician College in New Jersey this year (41 base hits, eight stolen bases). She will likely square off against her younger counterpart when Amanda and the Coyotes host the Golden Falcons in the 2014 preseason.

Aimee has a successful year of college softball already rotated on her racing tires, but Amanda is on the same track and she's catching up fast.