Janelle Meoño Has Bright Future Ahead Of Her At Arizona
Big bats and long balls are what typically come to mind when one thinks of Arizona softball. Five of the 10 top home run hitters in college softball history have donned the Wildcat uniform with Katiyana Mauga and Jessie Harper leading the program with 92 career home runs each, which is the second-best total in history behind Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain at 95.
However, rising sophomore Janelle Meoño showed the Arizona faithful how her slapping game can be just as effective as the long ball.
Meoño slapped her way to a .439 batting average, which allowed her to be crowned the Pac-12 batting champion for 2021. The California native’s batting average marked the second-highest average by a freshman in program history. Prior to Meoño earning this accolade, teammate Reyna Carranco was the reigning conference batting champion dating back to 2019, which is who Meoño idolized before she even stepped foot on campus.
“Coming out of high school, she was my favorite player and she has been such a big role model for me,” Meoño said. “Being able to share the award with her now is just something so special. I think she was happier than I was after we’d found out I got the award.”
Along with being named the conference batting champion, Meoño was also named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, a first-team All-Conference honoree and a third-team All-American.
Meoño found herself “shocked” when former Arizona head coach Mike Candrea broke the news to her about being named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
“My family was in town that weekend, so I went to tell them the news and it just made for a really good weekend,” Meoño said.
When asked about her success, Meoño gave credit to three of her former college teammates, who will go down as Arizona legends: Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Jessie Harper and 2021 Olympian Dejah Mulipola. Palomino-Cardoza helped Meoño find her voice in the outfield, Harper was the “backbone” of her success due to her leadership and a shared passion for the game connected her with Mulipola.
“They’re all my sisters and I will always look up to all of them,” Meoño said.
Now heading into her second full college softball season, Meoño wants to be to the incoming freshmen what Palomino-Cardoza, Harper and Mulipola were to her—a leader and reliable friend.
“I want to teach the freshmen to simplify the game and not let it get too big,” Meoño said. “It’s important to just keep it simple and to play their game. I think that's one of the things that they should know.”
After reflecting on this past season, it was not the accolades, wins or even making it to the Women’s College World Series that was Meoño’s favorite memory from 2021. Instead, it was when she came to the realization that she was the last player Candrea waved around third base to score in his illustrious coaching career, which occurred in Arizona’s final game of the season against Florida State on June 5.
“My travel ball coach, Mike Stith, told me I was the last person Coach Candrea waved around home,” Meoño said. “I was confused for a second, but then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that's true.’ That has to be my favorite memory since it’s so special because I love him.”
With the retirement of Candrea, Caitlin Lowe was named the next head coach for Arizona. Lowe being named the next head coach brought a smile to Meoño's face because of their strong relationship that began when Meoño was 10 years old.
“She was my first slapping coach and I have a picture of us that I always send her on her birthday,” Meoño said. “She has helped me grow so much and I can’t wait to see her as the head coach.”
From all the accolades she's received to making it to the Women’s College World Series to being the last runner Candrea would wave home, Meoño never thought this would be her reality.
“I’m tearing up because I’m so grateful for everything,” Meoño said. “The opportunities I have just make me so happy.”