From castoff to leadoff, Angel Jasso’s rise to softball stardom

From castoff to leadoff, Angel Jasso’s rise to softball stardom

Once a Texas high school afterthought, Angel Jasso has blossomed into one of Syracuse’s star players.
Published: May 6, 2022
Angel Jasso softball
All Angel Jasso wanted was to play at a Division I softball school. She didn’t expect to bat leadoff for one.

Today, you can often find Angel Jasso batting lead-off for the Syracuse Orange softball team, but this isn’t where she expected to be. Jasso grew up in Angleton, Texas, with her parents as the oldest of four siblings, including three sisters.

“Being the oldest is crazy,” Jasso said. “It was kinda like having to be a mom, taking care of my sisters. Obviously, a big part of having to grow up quick was my dad taking job opportunities out of the town and out of the state. (That) was a big role in me having to step up.”

During her recruitment to Syracuse, her family drove over 1,600 miles from their home in south Texas to Syracuse so she could attend a recruitment camp. That visit was extremely important to Jasso because, at that point, she only had one offer — from a junior college.

“It was definitely hard,” Jasso said. “Even in travel ball, I was always put in somebody else’s shadow and never had my own time to shine. That’s a pretty hard pill to swallow because everyone goes to the person above you when in reality there is not much difference between the two as players.”

As early as the seventh grade, she watched her friends and teammates receive Division I offers. Jasso needed to impress the SU coaches to secure her own — even if it was halfway across the country.

Growing up in Angleton, she often imagined of wearing a different shade of orange. She used to think she needed to be at the University of Texas, but not anymore.

“Where I am at now, I think of Syracuse as my home,” she said. “I always think back, ‘Oh, you would not have enjoyed playing at Texas.’ You can just tell it is a different world, and Syracuse, our program, is definitely one of a kind.”

After playing limited time in high school and travel ball, she earned a starting role early in her career with the Orange. She started 39 of 44 games as a freshman in 2021, where she slugged 28 hits, including seven doubles, a triple, and four homers.

During her freshman campaign, Jasso realized she belonged in Division I. “Actually believing that I am good enough was probably one of the biggest things that I needed to learn,” she said.

Jasso clubbed her first home run in March 2021 against Pittsburgh. She went 2-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored in her breakout performance.

“I did not actually know it was a homer until I saw the girl at the fence, and then I was hyped,” Jasso said. “It was the point where I was like ‘I belong here. (It was) like a ‘you are good enough to be here’ type moment for me.”

Jasso unlocked her talents this season by utilizing her speed on the basepaths. Last year, she only stole four bags on six attempts; but she found her footing in 2022, swiping 21 bases on 25 attempts thus far.

“Freshman year me was timid and did not want to make mistakes,” she said. “I was definitely scared of failure. I knew that understanding failure is not a bad thing. So once I switched that mentality, I broke loose.”

With a minimum of three games left in the season, Jasso has a chance to win her long-standing bet with her coaches. Before the season, they agreed to get Jasso a new pair of shoes if she steals 25 bases. She’ll need to swipe four bags against the Tar Heels this weekend to fulfill her end of the bargain.

The Texan’s all-around game has blossomed as a sophomore in 2022. She’s raised her batting average from .237 to .355, tallied more doubles than strikeouts and has yet to commit an error.

In the second game of the season, Jasso etched her name into Syracuse softball history. She became the first player to hit for the cycle in program history — and she accomplished it by the third inning.

The cycle is not an easy accomplishment and requires hitting a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. A player must have the speed to leg out a triple and the power to go yard, along with the challenge of getting four hits in one game.

 

“I honestly did not know I was hitting for the cycle at all,” said Jasso, whose family was on hand to witness the historic achievement. “I just remember one of my at-bats, Kelly Breen, the freshman, hit before me and she hit a home run. And then my sister, Amaiya, was like ‘Angel, can you hit a home run for me?’ and then I was like ‘I got you.’”

As Jasso has come on this season, she worked her way up the batting order. She’s now the Orange’s leadoff woman, taking over that role against Canisius. She delivered a double and bases-clearing triple in the first game of that doubleheader.

Coming into college, Jasso did not expect to bat leadoff. It took her some time to understand her role of getting on base, and allowing her teammates — “our big hitters,” as she describes them — to drive her home. Heading into the Orange’s regular-season series finale, she’s embraced the role.

The Orange spent their week off preparing for a pivotal series against North Carolina. With a jam-packed road schedule and the notorious Syracuse weather, the team had not been able to practice often at ​​Skytop Softball Stadium all season. While outfielders adjusted to the sunny skies and windy conditions, infielders practiced how to read grounders off the dirt, which Jasso likens to playing on concrete.

Syracuse will need at least two wins and help from conference rivals to preserve their ACC tournament hopes. Knowing that a sweep of North Carolina might not be enough to prolong their season, Jasso plans to leave it all on the field.

“I am going to hack at every pitch I see down the middle or close to the middle. I am going to dive to catch all the balls I can,” Jasso said. “You do not want to walk away from this knowing or wishing you could have done more.” 

Avatar for Daniel Joseph Kolodny

is a contributor for The NewsHouse.