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Scorpion softball standout bound for Cal State Monterey Bay on a scholarship

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© Wendy Pierro/Acorn Newspapers
Bianca Noriega of Camarillo High softball is heading to Cal State Monterey Bay. © Wendy Pierro/Acorn Newspapers
Bianca Noriega’s biggest thrill in high school was helping Camarillo High win the CIFSouthern Section Division 2 softball championship in 2011.

Now, the Scorpion outfielder and right-handed pitcher is ready to produce blissful softball memories at the collegiate level.

Noriega will take her powerful bat and rocket arm to Cal State Monterey Bay this fall.

It didn’t take long for the Santa Paula native to decide where to play college ball. Noriega committed to the Otters last summer.

“Once I set foot on the campus and saw the city of Monterey Bay, I knew it would be my home for the next four years,” said Noriega, a Pacific View League first-team standout for two seasons.

Monterey Bay, however, wasn’t Noriega’s first choice.

An ideal school for most softball players to attend would be a powerhouse like UCLAorArizona.

“My dream school was to go to Boise State,” Noriega said. “I don’t know why—I guess I’m different. They just caught my attention.

“I wrote to them to come see me play, but it didn’t work out.”

Noriega’s dream high school did pan out.

Despite growing up in Santa Paula, Noriega knew about Camarillo’s rich softball tradition through Nichole Pinedo, a longtime family friend and Scorpion assistant coach.

Pinedo, a former Camarillo and UCLA standout, had coached Noriega on travel ball teams since Noriega was 8.

“She’s always been a powerful hitter, even at a young age,” Pinedo said. “She’s strong, dedicated, motivated and works hard. She has always had that work ethic.

“Ever since I’ve known her, she has had the dream of playing college ball.”

Pinedo, a former Hueneme High teacher, met Noriega’s father, Richard, at a sporting goods store, igniting a strong coachplayer relationship.

Noriega was born to play softball.

A few years before Bianca Noriega was born, Richard Noriega was asked by his cousin to coach a softball team after the previous manager quit. Richard Noriega immediately fell in love with coaching softball.

“I took Bianca as a child to all my team practices and games,” he said. “She would go everywhere with me. She would emulate all the players. She would start pitching and do her wind-ups.”

Noriega played baseball at age 4 when her father put the youngster on his U-6 tee ball team.

During Bianca Noriega’s freshman year at Camarillo, Richard Noriega made the 25-mile (one way) commute every day to take his daughter to school. The Noriega family has lived in Ventura the past three years.

Richard Noriega said the long drive paid off when the Scorpions won the CIF championship during his daughter’s junior year.

A power cleanup hitter, Noriega belted a solo home run in the second inning of the section championship game for a 1-0 Camarillo advantage. The Scorpions completed their magical season with a 5-1 victory over La Mirada.

Although some of Noriega’s fondest memories are from high school softball, college recruits never saw her play at Camarillo.

“If you want to play softball in college, you would have to play travel ball,” Noriega said. “That’s where all the scouts go.”

Noriega has been on three different travel teams the past four years.

She’s currently playing for Strike Force, an Orange County squad.

Last summer, Monterey Bay found Noriega by accident when she suited up for Victory, a travel team from Westlake. The Otter coaches attended Victory’s game to scout an opposing player, but instead fell in love with Noriega.

She was recruited by Monterey Bay to play first base and pitch, two positions Noriega didn’t play much at Camarillo.

Former star pitcher Sarah Shadinger took care of business on the mound for the Scorpions.

Noriega tore it up at the plate and provided relief pitching.

“(Noriega) didn’t get a lot of pitching time, and she was okay with it,” Pinedo said.

“She knew her role was pitching behind Sarah, and she learned to play the outfield. She never pouted and did a great job hitting for us this past season.”

Noriega said she had no problem backing up Shadinger, her best friend.

“She’s a great pitcher,” the Oregon State-bound Shadinger said of Noriega.

“She always had my back when I had bad pitching days. “She’ll do great as a pitcher at the college level.”

Noriega wants to spend the rest of her summer with family.

“I’m probably going to be homesick for a while,” she said, “but I’ll adjust.”

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