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Sophomore pitcher Elana Montanez hurls for Vilseck in the DODDS-Europe Division I softball title game. The game was close, but Ramstein came out on top, taking the crown 7-6. Montanez has been named the Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year.

Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes

Sophomore pitcher Elana Montanez hurls for Vilseck in the DODDS-Europe Division I softball title game. The game was close, but Ramstein came out on top, taking the crown 7-6. Montanez has been named the Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year. Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

And like that, she’s gone.

Within a couple of days of the end of the 2015 DODDS-Europe softball season, Vilseck sophomore Elana Montanez had moved on. The ace pitcher returned to Texas, where she’ll compete in a tournament designed to further expand her ever-growing softball skill set. She won’t be back; the family will PCS out of Germany over the summer, Falcons coach Jim Hall said.

The last two years of what figures to be a magnificent prep career will play out elsewhere. But Montanez’s impact on DODDS-Europe softball will outlast her.

The promising freshman of 2014 developed into an outright dominant sophomore in 2015, coming within just a few plays of a surprise Division I championship. At the European tournament, Montanez was at the very top of her game.

The sophomore ace made six starts for Vilseck in the tournament, allowing less than one hit per inning, walking just four batters in total and posting 44 strikeouts, an average of over seven per game. Those numbers include a strong nine-hit, one-walk, six-strikeout effort in a seven-inning outing against Ramstein in the May 23 championship game. A string of unearned runs off of Vilseck errors doomed Montanez to a 7-6 loss in her final DODDS-Europe start; only three of the Royals’ seven runs were earned.

Though it ended in disappointment, Montanez’s tournament run cemented her status as perhaps DODDS-Europe’s most overwhelming pitcher. And it has made her the 2015 Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year.

Hall said that Montanez’s talent was matched only by her hard work.

“Not once did Elana complain about working so hard to be better,” Hall said. “We would have to watch her to make sure that she was not throwing too much.”

Though she pushed up against her pitch limit in practice, games were all about efficiency for Montanez.

Despite an impressively diverse array of reliable pitches — including a fastball, a curve, a dropball, a riseball, a screwball and two versions of a changeup — Montanez threw a shocking amount of strikes. Hall calculated that she threw between 72 and 81 percent of her pitches for strikes over the course of the European tournament, a continuation of a regular season in which she averaged just over one strikeout and just under one hit allowed per inning pitched.

Meanwhile, Montanez made significant contributions on offense. She notched 26 hits in 53 plate appearances on the season, including nine extra-base hits. She stole 14 bases, scored 26 runs and drove in 16 more.

Those numbers add up to a game-changing player who tilted the power balance of DODDS-Europe softball and nearly toppled it entirely.

“It was a running joke at the first of the year. She would thank me and the coaches every day for making her better that day,” Hall said. “Her comment was, ‘I want to make sure that I get everything I can out of softball today.’”

Though it ended prematurely, Montanez certainly made the most of her time on the diamonds of DODDS-Europe.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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