Former UHV players now coaching team
Jan. 30, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 29, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Though Lindsey Ortiz has been married for more than a year, most members of the UHV softball team still refer to her as "Ferg," short for her maiden name, Ferguson.
The nickname has stuck with Ortiz since high school in Houston and while she played softball at Galveston College before transferring to UHV as a junior.
After four years of being the Jaguars' assistant coach, Ortiz was named the head of the softball program after Keri Lambeth left last summer.
Lambeth had been the coach since 2006, when the softball program started at UHV.
Ortiz said that her choice to stay with UHV after graduating with a bachelor's degree in business centered on furthering her education.
"At first, it was really just going to be an avenue for me to get my master's degree and go on and do important businesswoman stuff," Ortiz said. "But I fell in love with it and can't get away. I never really knew what I wanted to do, but as soon as I started, I thought, 'This makes sense for me.'"
Ortiz received her master's degree in interdisciplinary studies with business and communication.
Lambeth, who is now a junior high school teacher and volleyball coach in Seabrook, said there was no better choice for the position than Ortiz.
"One of the hardest-working people you can have on your staff or team; she is so passion about softball and Victoria," Lambeth said. "On the field and in her studies, she was a stellar student and athlete. She deserves the position of head coach - I couldn't be more proud of her."
Soon after Ortiz was promoted, she called former UHV player and two-time All-American pitcher Emily Bergstrom.
Bergstrom, an El Campo native, graduated from UHV in December 2012 after the Jaguars' best season (40-10) earlier that year. She played from 2010-12 after transferring from Hill College.
"I moved home and had a desk job and had to dress up for work every day," Bergstrom said of her life post graduation. "Lindsey called me at the end of July and told me that Keri was leaving, and she thinks she was going to get the head coaching job and asked if I wanted to do it."
Though each played softball for more than 16 years, neither thought they would end up coaching.
Ortiz knew once she started playing select softball at age 9 that it could be her ticket to college.
"Really and truly that was kind of everybody's goal on that team," Ortiz said. "Softball is an avenue to help get you through college, to help get you money for college, get you your degree."
For Bergstrom, she is thankful for parents who were willing to go the extra mile - or 70 miles - for her to play.
"I was the only person in my grade that played select softball from El Campo," she said. "We didn't have travel teams, so I would go to Houston and play. I played softball a lot of weekends, and I never got burned out. I wanted to play all through high school and college."
Both miss the pitching mound (Ortiz pitched before she came to UHV and then played first base) and the excitement of the games from the player's point of view.
"Coaching is really like the next best thing," Ortiz said. "If I wasn't coaching, if I didn't get to be out here in the dirt every day, it would be really hard - their success is my success."
Ortiz, 27, and Bergstrom, 23, both faced a unique transition when they went from being players to coaches of their former teammates.
"It was really cool because Kristina (Droz), who is our catcher, was actually my catcher," Bergstrom said. "It took a while to get used to, and I think they sometimes still see me as a player - I forget I'm a coach sometimes."
At practice, Bergstrom relishes the opportunity to throw pitches to batters - if not for any other reason than to stay warm.
While acting as the assistant coach, Bergstrom will start the application process for medical school. She double majored in biology and psychology from UHV.
Lambeth said that the addition of Bergstrom is a relief.
"They will work so hard together, they're very motivating and positive people," Lambeth said. "So impressed with what they've already done, and they're going to do great this season."
Ortiz said that timing could not have been more perfect for the upward move.
This is the first year for the program to have five original seniors, meaning they were recruited out of high school to play solely for UHV.
"Our senior class is awesome," Ortiz said. "Without their cooperation and their being behind me, the transition would have been a lot tougher. They jumped right on and have done everything I've asked them and more."
According to Lambeth, Ortiz's positive attitude and innate leadership skills make her a solid coach.
"She's goal-oriented," Lambeth said. "She knows exactly what she wants; all of those attributes are what you want on your staff."
When the Jaguars started out, Ortiz was a team captain.
"That first year was awesome - we came in with no expectation; nobody expected anything from us," Ortiz said. "We came in and started winning, and once you get a taste of winning, you don't ever want it to slip away."
Crediting Lambeth with creating a solid recruiting and transferring foundation, Ortiz hasn't changed much just yet.
"I was very lucky to get to work with her and get to base a lot of my stuff off of hers," she said. "We really balanced each other, but we were very different - I have put my own spin on things, and we have a bit of a different approach."
With the team's first games starting Friday in Galveston, Ortiz, Bergstrom and the Jaguar players are beyond ready to play.
"It's really great for us to be able to play with our lineup and try different things without necessarily having to worry about the wins and losses," she said.
With 17 players on the roster, including seven pitchers, the season looks bright for the Jaguars.
"We all have the same goals; we've talked a lot this year about putting 'the goal before the role,' meaning we all want the same thing," Ortiz said. "They all contribute and are all very necessary to get us where we need to be."
Last year ended with a 32-22 record, which was a massive turnaround from 3-13 earlier in the season.
"For our returners, especially the seniors who have been here all four years, they want to do something they've never done before," Ortiz said. "They want to make it to that final 10 - their enthusiasm and their passion has definitely trickled down in the ranks, and they all want that now."
Bergstrom said "Once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar."
"I know we're young, but from a coaching perspective, it's good that we're young because we still have that fire," Bergstrom said. "We know what it was like playing and winning and being in those types of games. It makes me want them to succeed that much more."