Sharyland Pioneer's Kayla Monjaras (23) attempts to beat PSJA Memorial's Jasmine Martinez (33) has she jumps back to first base in a District 31-5A game at Sharyland Pioneer High School on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

MISSION — Kayla Monjaras had to adjust to her new role at Sharyland Pioneer, but quickly became a key contributor for the Diamondbacks on the diamond.

Monjaras, who played two years of varsity softball at Sharyland High, starred at catcher for the Rattlers but had to transition to a new position upon her arrival at Pioneer as a junior.

She quickly found her place as the D’backs’ starting first baseman and developed into one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most prolific hitters and consistent defenders.

Her ability to adapt and produce for the Diamondbacks helped her garner attention on the recruiting trail despite having her junior season upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Monjaras signed her national letter of intent Monday to play collegiately at Coastal Bend College in Beeville.

“I’m really excited and kind of nervous to go up there,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to play two years of JuCo. I think it will really up my game and my softball IQ. … It’s a good school, the coaches are great and the girls there are awesome. It’s a really family-like vibe over there.”

Monjaras became the second Diamondbacks softball star to sign a college letter of intent this year, joining Daniela Ortiz who signed with Texas A&M-San Antonio before the season began.

She becomes the latest in a string of Pioneer softball players to make the jump to the next level, quickly turning the D’backs’ program into a collegiate pipeline.

“It feels awesome to create that foundation for the younger girls,” Monjaras said. “To give them something to look up to and do something they want to do at the collegiate level is great. No matter what division it is, it’s a great opportunity.”

At a signing ceremony surrounded by her teammates and family at the Sharyland Pioneer softball field, Monjaras thanked her teammates for helping her adapt quickly to her new school and find her footing as an integral part of the Diamondbacks’ lineup.

“To be a part of it has been great,” Monjaras said. “My teammates are awesome. They’ve really helped me build my game. They’ve been great friends too and helped build this family atmosphere which has also helped me up my game and work harder than ever before.”

Monjaras has helped build Pioneer into one of the Valley’s toughest teams in Class 5A on the softball field.

She helped lead the Diamondbacks to a dominant start last season and tallied a .375 batting average before her junior year was cut short three games into district play.

“It was really sad because we had a good thing going on last year,” Monjaras said. “But it was only an opportunity to make myself better to get to the collegiate level. These coaches really helped me work hard and improve my game to get to where I am today.”

“It just made me love the game more because you never know when the opportunity is going to be taken away from you,” she added. “It was a blessing in disguise, really, and I’m thankful for it.”

Monjaras capitalized on her opportunity to return to the diamond this season, building herself into a vocal leader on the field and one of the Valley’s most disciplined hitters.

She’s elevated her batting average to .495 this season and leads her team in walks, while also boasting a .975 fielding percentage as the team’s everyday first baseman.

“Those are good signs of someone with confidence who’s a true leader on a team that you need,” Sharyland Pioneer head coach Orlando Garcia said. “That’s only going to help her down the line as she continues her softball career.”

“My softball IQ has definitely upped itself over the past year,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from my coaches, my travel ball coach and my dad. They’ve really helped me up my game by getting in a bunch of batting reps.”

She’s helped lead the Diamondbacks to an 11-3-1 record thus far this season and an unblemished record in district competition with seven games remaining in the regular season.

Pioneer has clobbered a majority of its district opponents behind the strength of its deep lineup and sharp defense.

“We’re dominating because we’ve been practicing really hard to get our reps in. We have great athletes all around on this team and we’re only going to get stronger,” Mojaras said.

“We want to prove we can make it past the rounds no other Valley teams can get past. There are some pretty good Corpus teams, but I think we’re going to be able to (compete with them) because we’re very strong up and down our lineup, on the field and pitching-wise. We’re trying to make a statement out there.”

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch