WASHINGTON, DC - Come spring, Sierra Lange and Marta Fuentes will be battling for spots in the George Washington softball lineup. Some experience on the game's biggest stage should help.
Lange and Fuentes represented the Philippines and Puerto Rico, respectively, at the World Cup of Softball last month in Oklahoma City. Talk about a memorable summer vacation.
"It brings me so much pride being able to play for my island because it is not just for a city or for a university," said Fuentes, whose Puerto Rico squad placed sixth out of eight teams. "It is playing for an entire nation who is coming together and supporting one."
Lange hails from Texas but has Filipino heritage on her mother's side. She started on the mound for the Asian island in all three of its wins.
The freshman hurler tossed complete games to beat Australia and Mexico early in the week and then worked into extra innings in a tournament-ending victory over Mexico on July 9. She also pitched well in relief in a loss to Canada, which is ranked No. 3 in the world.
In all, Lange allowed 17 runs in 31 innings at the World Cup with nine strikeouts against 11 walks. She also played for the Philippines this summer at the Canada Cup and Junior World Championships.
"My mindset was to not let my team down and do whatever I could to get ground balls and pop ups," Lange said. "Getting outs and keeping the scores low is the key. After every win we had, it felt amazing. There was not a single win I would take for granted because the glory with these girls was so rewarding."
Fuentes was born in Puerto Rico before growing up in Florida. She first represented the Caribbean island at the 2015 Junior World Championship. She saw action in six of eight games at the World Cup, logging time in the outfield and at second base.
The transfer from Florida Southwestern State College went hitless in four at-bats but scored twice as a pinch runner, including once in a July 7 win over Lange and the Philipines. She made cameos against eventual champion Japan and the U.S. Junior National Team.
For Fuentes, the fun stretched beyond the diamond. The bilingual reserve relished her unofficial role as team translator. Some of her teammates just spoke English. A few only knew Spanish. She helped bridge the gap.
"It was really funny seeing them communicate with each other sometimes," Fuentes said. "Even with the language barrier, we are really close, and we all get along on and off the field."
After a busy summer, Lange and Fuentes will turn attention to helping GW build on last season's 28-24 finish. Both believe they're better prepared to make a mark with the Colonials after getting pushed by some of the best in the world.
"Coming together in this fun-but-intense atmosphere is awesome," Lange said. "Our team dynamic runs off of working for each other because we all want the same goal and that's making it to the Olympics in 2020."