College softball: Ex-Litchfield Dragon makes her mark at St. Cloud State
Jasmin Estrada wraps up her career as the St. Cloud State Huskies' all-time home run and RBIs leader
ST. CLOUD — The hangar is a second home to Jasmin Estrada.
Located by the football practice field at Litchfield High School, the hangar has batting cages and pitching machines inside for baseball and softball. It’s the place where Estrada, a 2018 Litchfield grad, cultivated her power swing.
“It’s not much, but it definitely got the job done,” Estrada said. “I would say I probably spent like half, or over half, of my life in that hangar. … I was a three-sport athlete in high school and I vividly remember my dad (Eduardo) and I, after a hockey tournament or volleyball tournament, we’d go straight to the hangar to work on softball.
“It was a grind but I love that place. It’s where my dad has seen me fail. It’s like my second home."
The hangar helped produce one of the best power bats in Minnesota high school softbal history. Estrada is third in career home runs with 32. And over a five-year career at St. Cloud State, she is now the softball program’s home-run queen with 43 career homers. She’s also the Huskies’ all-time leader in career RBIs with 188.
Gaining an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, Estrada had no qualms about coming back in 2023 as a graduate student. She knew both the RBI and the home run records were within reach. Brooke Gentzler (2001-04) held both career marks with 42 home runs and 161 RBIs.
“I really try not to be that driven (by stats) when I go through my seasons but obviously, those are always in the back of my head,” Estrada said. “And I was also curious.”
She broke the career RBI mark with a walk-off three-run home run during a doubleheader against Concordia-St. Paul on March 17.
Next was the home run record, and that remained elusive for the rest of the regular season. She entered the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament with 41 career homers. A career .377 hitter, Estrada was in a slump through the final 12 games of the regular season. The left-handed batter hit .250 with just one home run over that span. Nagging injuries — a sprained MCL and torn cartilage in her right leg — complicated matters.
As the Huskies’ designated hitter, she was struggling to do her primary job. Estrada admits that the pursuit of the home-run record was weighing on her. Before the conference tournament, she took a trip back to the hangar to get her mind right.
“I like to come home to hit with my dad; he’s my biggest coach and my biggest mentor when it comes to hitting,” Estrada said. “And I wasn’t feeling great with my swing before the NSIC tournament.”
She added, “I was like, you know what, this is my last season and my last conference tournament. I’m just gonna relax. If I don’t get the home-run record, it’s not a big deal. I’ve made my mark on this program, stats or no stats.”
Down in Rochester for the final five games of her college career, Estrada showed how she became one of the most feared hitters in the Northern Sun Intercolleagiate Conference. She opened the tournament going 2-for-4 with a run scored in a 4-0 win over Minnesota State-Mankato on May 3.
The next day, May 4, was one for the record books.
A tourney to remember
In SCSU’s first game of the day, a 5-4 loss to Augustana, Estrada tied Gentzler’s home-run total with a two-run blast in the first inning. She finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
The next game was against Minnesota State-Moorhead. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so locked into a game,” Estrada said.
Drawing a 3-2 count against Avery Steffen in the bottom of the third, Estrada drove the ball over the left-field fence for her record-setting 43rd career home run.
Amid all the excitement as she rounded the bases, Estrada saw her dad sprinting after the record-breaking ball. He had gotten the record-tying ball earlier in the day. And, Estrada believes the family still has her first collegiate home-run ball, hit back on Feb. 28, 2019 against Bemidji State.
“It just made me so emotional seeing him run to the ball right away,” Estrada said. “He was just so happy for me. He’s the reason I was able to break those records. Without him, I wouldn’t have done it.”
The team was just as emotional.
“Coming into the dugout, all my teammates are tearing up and they’re making me emotional,” Estrada said. “I kind of forgot I did it until my teammates brought it up to me. I was like, oh my god, I did just break the record.”
In the NSIC tournament, Estrada hit 10-for-17 (.588 average) with six runs and five RBIs.
“The more I started getting into the games, I was like, OK, I’m gonna have fun and I’m going to try and make the last few games the best games,” Estrada said, “and I think that’s exactly what I did.
“Our first game against Augustana, I don’t think I’ve ever played so hard in my entire life. There was blood on my jersey after the game. There was mascara all over my jersey from crying because I got hit in the face. It was all out for me in every game.”
With her playing career wrapped up, Estrada is healing up. Along with her previous injuries, she also pulled her right hamstring in the NSIC tournament. There’s still another year of school left as Estrada pursues her master’s degree in educational administration and leadership. She hopes to eventually be a principal or an athletic director.
She is the Huskies’ only four-time All-NSIC honoree, earning first-team honors in 2021 and second-team honors in ‘19, ‘22 and ‘23. She was also a two-time All-NSIC tournament pick in ‘19 and ‘23.
Coaching in her future?
After the work she put in the hangar, Estrada’s not quite ready to leave softball behind.
She’s hoping to give college coaching a try as a grad assistant while she wraps up her academics. Being SCSU’s home run and RBI leader serves as a resume-booster for that pursuit.
“The biggest thing going through the program is that I really wanted to be a mentor for the younger girls,” Estrada said. “As a captain, I really wanted to be a great leader for them so that they would be able to lead girls under them. I wanted to make a difference in the younger girls and really create a positive environment for them where they can feel like they can make mistakes and not have to worry about their captains getting on them.
“I wanted to make sure that I set good examples by always going into practice with great energy and always trying to build good relationships with my teammates.”
Jasmin Estrada career stats
Note: The 2020 season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic