Cal State San Marcos’ Jillian Albayati makes history playing softball, baseball game in same day

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Cal State San Marcos’ Jillian Albayati makes history playing softball, baseball game in same day

When Jillian Albayati ran from the Cal State San Marcos softball field to the bullpen at the school’s nearby baseball field to warm up for her second game, in a second sport, in a matter of nearly an hour, she was moments away from achieving history, and at the same time, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

“You dream about that as a little girl,” Albayati told The Athletic. “Just being able to get that opportunity in college. Girls dream about getting that opportunity in high school. So it means a lot to me, especially to inspire other girls that are wanting to play in college and even in high school. It means everything to me.”

When Albayati, a sophomore, came out of the bullpen to pitch in the final inning of the afternoon for the Cougars in an 18-2 loss to Sonoma State last Sunday, she did something only one collegiate athlete had previously accomplished: play in a softball and baseball game on the same day.

Christina Elsbury, a student at Division III Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., was the first to achieve the feat when she pitched in a baseball and softball game on April 22, 2023. Albayati’s quick sport shift made her the first Division II athlete to appear in both a softball and baseball game in the same day. 

(Photo: Greg Siller / Active7Media)

(Photo: Greg Siller / Active7Media)

As Albayati rushed to warmup, her softball teammates, who had just won via a walk-off grand slam, became her cheer section.

“It was awesome,” Albayati said. “My whole softball team was running down to the bullpen following me. They’re all going crazy when I was warming up and finally able to get on the mound. All the guys, too. Once I got in the bullpen, they were all super excited for me, just going crazy. … And even the parents, too. It was just a great atmosphere.”

Albayati arrived just in time to loosen up her arm before taking the field with one goal in mind: to get three outs. She ending up throwing 24 pitches against seven batters, while allowing three hits and one run.

Despite the lopsided score, the Cal State San Marcos baseball squad, hampered by injuries to its pitching staff, was happy to have a reinforcement. Albayati’s achievement was born out of a need for a healthy, experienced arm.

In the week leading up to the team’s game, Cal State San Marcos baseball coach Jose Garcia was candidly speaking with softball coach Stef Ewing about the number of injuries his pitchers were facing. Ewing instantly thought of a solution: Albayati.

Albayati, an Anaheim, Calif., native, wasn’t in unfamiliar territory on the baseball diamond. Far from it, actually.

She played both baseball and softball at Anaheim High. As a senior, she held a 12-0 record as a pitcher for the baseball team and became the first girl to pitch in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section championship game. Albayati received an honorary ESPY for Women in Sports and threw out the first pitch at Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers games.

She has been a pitcher and played in the outfielder for the USA women’s national baseball team and has an invitation to play for the Savannah Bananas this summer.

The decision to add Albayati to the bullpen was an easy one for Garcia.

“There was a genuine need on our end, and there was a genuine eagerness on her end to do this,” Garcia said. “We felt like it made a whole lot of sense. But for me to be a part of that, it was pretty cool. A pretty special moment to be able to hand her that baseball, being a new father of a one-month-old daughter.

“It’s going to be something that I’m going to be able to talk to my daughter about at some point in time down the road, and something I’ll never forget.”

(Photo: Greg Siller / Active7Media)

(Photo: Greg Siller / Active7Media)

Ewing said it meant a lot that Garcia was open to Albayati joining the team.

“I think there was a time in the world where if I would have piped up and said that, everybody would have just been like, ‘Stop!’” Ewing said. “Instead, he was definitely like, OK, let’s see her go throw.”

Once Garcia saw Albayati pitch, he was sold. Being able to close out the baseball game was something Ewing, who was named to the 2006 All-Pac 10 Freshman Team at Oregon State and has been around the game for decades, had yet to experience.

“I’ve never seen anything or heard anything like it,” Ewing said of Albayati’s historic day. “I think the best part about it is that she was playing baseball at such a high level, for such a long time. And then softball came late for her.

“Which I think is trending a lot more now. I played baseball growing up, and then switched to softball. But that was about middle school age and it was very rare that you would see girls playing baseball, but there was a handful of them. And I think it’s trending that way that more girls are playing baseball.”

Garcia was noncommittal when asked whether Albayati would make another appearance with the baseball team, but the Cougars are still not at full strength. 

“If that means that Jill continues to be active on our roster to maybe give us another inning here or there in the next couple weeks, then we’ll continue to explore that,” he said.

“So (Wednesday), she threw a bullpen. And with the idea that, you never know if she might be active this weekend or the following week.”

If that opportunity comes for her, she’ll likely approach it with a similar focus to her first outing with the baseball team.

“I really had more excitement in me than I did nerves,” Albayati said. “But once I got out on the mound, it was more like I’m here to get a job done and throw strikes. Not distracted by everything else that was going on around me.”

(Photo: Greg Siller / Active7Media)