When senior outfielder Marlee Gabaldon came to Texas in 2011, she expected to walk into a big role.
Gabaldon was a standout, four-year letter-winner at Permian High School in Odessa. She won consecutive Permian Athlete of the Year awards in 2010 and 2011 and was a two-time District 3-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player.
But in her first season with the Longhorns, she saw limited action in just 21 games, primarily as a pinch hitter. She earned eight starts her sophomore year and seven as a junior.
“It was really hard at first,” Gabaldon said. “I tried not to let it be a negative thing. I realized there are a lot of roles to a team, and I needed to fill whatever one was needed.”
This season, however, Gabaldon plans on being a consistent fixture for the Longhorns.
“Something hit her this year as a senior because she’s taken hold of that starting job,” head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s got a strangle hold on it, and she’s not about to give it up, and I just love that.”
In Texas’ first game this season, Gabaldon notched a career-high three RBIs against UC-Santa Barbara. She boasted a .429 batting average during the Texas Classic tournament, and she hit a three-run double in the seventh inning to carry Texas over then-unbeaten Georgia.
Through 20 games, all of which Gabaldon has started, she boasts a .281 batting average with nine RBIs, the fourth most on the team. But her impact is about more than just statistics.
“She’s a great voice in the clubhouse,” Clark said. “She’s just one of those people that, when she’s got something to say, people listen.”
Gabaldon also sees herself as a secondary leader. As one of just two seniors on the team, she provides veteran leadership for the young group.
“I don’t want to be that person that talks all the time, so I let everyone do their part,” Gabaldon said. “I want to be one of those players that’s not always heard but is always respected.”
Going from a bench player to a starter hasn’t fazed Gabaldon.
“It wasn’t much of a transition,” she said. “I was always prepared to take on this role. I’ve done it my whole life.”
Gabaldon learned to be ready to do anything her team needs during her first three seasons. She plans on using that lesson to achieve her goal of being consistent for Texas.
“I just want to be there for my team in every way,” Gabaldon said. “I want to help my team achieve their goals, which is anything that concerns a championship.”
Gabaldon hopes to continue her success this weekend as the Longhorns (13–7) compete in the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.