STAMFORD, Texas (BVM) – Cynthia Herrera kept hearing about a standout incoming freshman pitcher she was going to have to work with after she was hired to be Stamford High School’s softball coach four years ago.
That pitcher was Citlaly Gutierrez. And she wasn’t only a softball player.
“Going into her freshman year she was cheerleading and she broke her ankle and [people] were like, ‘Yeah that’s your starting pitcher,’” Herrera recalled. “And I’m like, ‘What? She’s a cheerleader?’”
Stamford competes in Class 2A, the second-smallest classification in Texas’ University Interscholastic League (UIL), and it’s common for athletes at small schools to play all kinds of sports. Gutierrez was one of them – a softball player who also took part in cheerleading, track and field, basketball and tennis, a sport in which she would even reach the state tournament as a senior. But it was her softball skills that Herrera had heard so much about and the first-year coach was eager to find out if all the hype was for real.
It didn’t take long for Herrera to realize Gutierrez was worth every bit of it.
“She had just lost in a playoff basketball game and the next day we loaded the bus and went to go play our first [softball] game,” Herrera recalled. “We had no practice. I’m like, ‘Well, everybody’s talking about this stud, she’s the only pitcher, so she’s pitching. I saw her warming up and within minutes, I look over at my dad because he happened to be there and I said, ‘Dad, this kid’s going DI one day.’ From the moment I saw her pitch, I knew she was something special.”
Gutierrez shined for Stamford from the get-go. She went 9-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched as a freshman. Then after losing her sophomore season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she went 27-4 with a 0.49 ERA and fired five no-hitters as she led the Bulldogs to their first state title in program history as a junior in 2021. Gutierrez led Stamford back to state as a senior this spring, but the Bulldogs fell two wins short of repeat after losing a 1-0 pitcher’s duel to Lovelady in the state semifinal game. Nevertheless, Gutierrez had left her legacy as perhaps the best to ever pitch at Stamford.
“She was just phenomenal,” Herrera said. “Time and time again she gets in that circle and she’s a different beast. She loves pitching you can just tell. She led us all the way.”
With a historic high school career behind her, Gutierrez is ready to bring her talents to another softball program that has experienced recent success. The Texas Longhorns made a surprising run as the first unseeded team to reach the Women’s College World Series finals earlier this month before finishing as the national runner-up to defending champion Oklahoma. As a Class of 2022 UT signee, Gutierrez couldn’t help but be excited as she watched her future teammates make history.
“It’s pretty cool,” Gutierrez said. “I think a lot of people underestimated them. I knew that they had it in them. It’s just really cool to see that I’m going to be playing with a lot of those girls next year and a lot of their experience is probably going to rub off on the incoming freshmen. I’m excited to play with them.”
And Gutierrez has dreams of being in the pitcher’s circle at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium the next time the Longhorns make it to Oklahoma City.
“I played in that stadium before, obviously with not as many people, but the few times I have played there for travel ball I always do think about it like, ‘This could be me in a few years playing on this exact field,’” Gutierrez said. “I think we have a really good team and a really good program, so I do think about it a lot. I do see myself playing there.”
Rated No. 36 overall in Extra Inning Softball’s 2022 Extra Elite 100 player rankings, Gutierrez will be one of fives signees from the Longhorns’ No. 12-ranked recruiting class who are among the best in the country at their position and she hopes to soon make a big impact in the Big 12 for Texas.
“I think they have high expectations and I have high expectations for myself,” Gutierrez said. “Coach [Mike] White is a pitcher himself so his standards are pretty high. … I’ve just got to keep doing me but also work hard to meet those expectations.”
Having seen her work ethic and talent on display for four years, Herrera is confident Gutierrez will thrive at the next level.
“Nobody will outwork her so there’s not a doubt in mind,” Herrera said. “She’s going to go in there and give it her all. She listens, she learns and she’s so coachable. She’s got these great coaches – Mike White is phenomenal and he’s going to help her tremendously. She’s a sponge and she’s going to soak it all in and she’s just going to get better. She’s already good and I know she’s going to get better.”