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Jade Soto Prepares For Fresh Start With Oregon State

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(Photo by Oregon State)

Jade Soto didn’t know what to believe. One friend who played softball at the University of Florida said she would have a season, but without fans. Another friend was told her season was canceled. On Twitter, she saw that the Sun Belt Conference, in which Coast Carolina plays, had canceled the remainder of all winter and spring sports seasons.

Soto was always set on missing out on her freshman year after reinjuring her shoulder. She had surgery on her left shoulder and was rehabbing her injury. At first, she thought the 2020 college softball season would be suspended a week or two, but then the NCAA canceled all sports for the remainder of the academic year.

“It was just a really big shock,” Soto said. “I definitely felt for my teammates because I was bummed out that I couldn't have the season because I was injured. I think not being able to have a season when you're healthy, that hurts so much too, and I really felt for them.”

The first time Soto injured her shoulder she was a junior in high school. That year, she had surgery on her left shoulder. For softball players looking to play in college, their junior season is vital in the recruiting process. Soto was worried that the injury that kept her out that season would impact her college softball prospects.

But, she was able to rehab in time to play summer ball, which helped her get recruited to Coastal Carolina. Soto said she thinks she rushed back into playing, which led to her reinjuring the shoulder during her freshman year of college.

“I was really bummed out to miss my first college season,” the outfielder said. “But then again, I was excited to be there for my teammates. And, at some point, most athletes I know have gone through an injury and I was very blessed to have support.”

During the last few weeks of May, Soto made the decision to transfer. COVID-19 and her injury prevented her from playing for Coastal Carolina in 2020, which made the transfer process more complex. She had to convince programs she could play despite the injury, so when an opportunity to play summer ball arrived she jumped on it.

Her friend suggested playing in the Florida Gulf Coast League, a new summer softball league for college players. Playing summer ball, Soto hoped she would get her shoulder back to where it was before her injury. That’s when she met Tina Whitlock, a volunteer softball coach for the University of South Carolina and a coach in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Whitlock suggested to Soto that she write a list of what she wanted in a school and reach out to programs on the West Coast.

That same weekend, Soto reached out to Oregon State.

“I was like, I’m a transfer. I don’t really have stats, I had surgery, but I kind of showed them my skills (through video) to show them what I can do,” said Soto. “And I ended up getting an email back the next morning from (assistant) coach (Eric) Leyba saying, ‘Hey, could you give us a call?’”

She was sad to leave Coastal Carolina, but chose to switch programs for mental health reasons and to be closer to family. The Florida native ended up moving further away, but will still have family in a nearby state. Her sister, who is a nurse, is set to move to California at the end of December. The thought of having her sister live a state away eased her worries about moving so far from home.

Now healthy and embarked on a new journey, Soto is prepared for her fresh start and second chance at college softball, which she'll never take for granted.

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