Playing softball wasn't so much a choice for Sierra Hyland as it was her destiny.
After all, Hyland was a fixture around Visalia's softball diamonds as her parents — the now divorced Teresa Banuelos and Mike Hyland — played as often as they could from the time she was a toddler.
"It's pretty much in my blood," Hyland said.
The El Diamante High senior has grown from the stroller on the sidelines into one of the stars of the Central Section.
Hyland's numbers stack up with the greatest hitters ever to swing a bat between Bakersfield and Chowchilla.
During four seasons with the Miners, Hyland hit .416 with the third-most home runs (28) and fifth-most RBIs (139) ever produced in the section, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
And she ranks among the most successful pitchers, too.
Her 101 career wins are second in section history and her 965 strikeouts are fourth, according to Barnett.
"All-around, she's the whole package. She's one of the best players that's come through the Valley for sure," said Bullard coach Jaime Maxey, herself a two-time Bee All-Star who played alongside two of the highest-regarded players in section history in Courtney Dale at Bullard and Amanda Scott (Clovis) at Fresno State.
"And I don't think she will just be a high school phenom, but excellent at the next level because she has pitches that really work. She just doesn't throw hard, she hits her spots."
Hyland, The Bee's Softball Player of the Year for the second time, helped elevate the Miners from section Division II runners-up as a freshman, to D-I champs as a sophomore to nationally ranked as a junior and senior.
The Cal Poly recruit led the section in wins (23) and finished third in home runs (seven) as a freshman.
Hyland won 24 games, hit six home runs and knocked in 33 during a sophomore season capped when she outdueled the section's premier pitcher, Stockdale's Justine Vela, in a 1-0 win for the Miners' first D-I title in any sport.
And she went a combined 54-3 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs the past two seasons as El Diamante earned national rankings and the No. 1 seed in the D-I playoffs only to get upset in the semifinals in 2012 and the quarterfinals this year.
"She's athletically talented, which was evident from the time she was a freshman," Miners assistant Donovan McJunkin said. "And she developed a work habit as she got older, so she went from a gifted athlete to a gifted athlete who really worked on her skill.
"You can't look at one of her years and say it was a down one. Team-wise, we didn't meet our goals. But individually, she produced each and every year."
The Miners went 109-18-1 while winning three West Yosemite League titles and the 2013 Clovis Easter Classic during Hyland's four seasons.
Despite an ankle injury that cost her three games this season, Hyland went 24-1 with a 1.16 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings and hit .490 with seven homers and 37 RBIs.
El Diamante was 28-2-1 and finished No. 40 in Maxpreps' national rankings after losing 8-5 to Clovis in the D-I quarterfinals.
"I'm a competitor, and I don't really like losing," Hyland said. "I know we could have gone further than we have the past two years, but sometimes it just doesn't work out so you have to live with it and move on.
"I always wanted to do as much as I could for the team. I tried to get the job done for them."
Player of the Year
School: El Diamante
She's qualified because: Headed to Cal Poly with the second-most wins (101) and third-most home runs (28) in Central Section history. West Yosemite League MVP capped her four-year career by going 24-1 with a 1.16 ERA, 13 shutouts and 221 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings, while also contributing a .490 batting average with 10 doubles, five triples, seven homers, 37 runs and 37 RBIs to a Miners team that went 28-2-1 and finished No. 40 nationally in the Maxpreps.com Top 100. Hyland had a career 1.20 ERA with 51 shutouts and 965 strikeouts in 754 1/3 innings, and she also hit .416 with 39 doubles, 11 triples, 119 runs and 139 RBIs.
What a career
El Diamante High senior softball standout Sierra Hyland finished among the Central Section's career leaders in the following statistics, according to historian Bob Barnett:
Category: Total, Rank
Home runs: 28, 3rd
RBIs: 139, T5th
Wins: 101, 2nd
Strikeouts: 965, 4th
Shutouts: 51, 8th
The reporter can be reached at email@example.com, (559) 441-6103 or @NickG_FB on Twitter.