Makaiya Gomez only got to play one game with her Copper Hills High teammates on the Grizzlies’ home field. The rest were in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

So when she woke up to a text message with the news she had won the Gatorade Utah Softball Player of the Year award, Gomez was shocked. Not only was she unaware her coach nominated her, but it came as a surprise also because her senior season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s kind of crazy because I wasn’t able to really show this year and play complete games,” Gomez told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But it’s an honor that I even won considering that we didn’t even get to have a season.”

In seven games in which the Grizzlies went 5-2, Gomez posted a batting average of .632. She also drove in 11 runs, plated 10 herself and hit two home runs. Gomez had a breakout junior year with the Grizzlies, during which she hit .702 — best in the state.

Gomez will play softball at the University of Utah in the fall.

(Photo courtesy of Makaiya Gomez) Makaiya Gomez (11) meets her cheering teammates while playing for the Copper Hills High Grizzlies. Gomez, who will play for the University of Utah in the fall, won the Gatorade Utah Softball Player of the Year award.

"MK is a Utah kid who was determined to be a Ute,” Utah head coach Amy Hogue said in a news release. “She came to camps year after year and became an easy pick for us to add to this 2020 class. She's gritty, does not back down from a challenge and brings a ton of leadership qualities to the field. She is an outfielder with speed and a left-handed hitter who is a triple threat.”

Gomez’s father, Eric, is an alumnus of the U. She said her father told her of his experience at the university, which influenced her desire to go there. She also wanted to stay relatively close to her family when she went off to school.

“That really factored into my decision of coming to the U and wanting to be around my family, but still being far enough away that I’m still living the adult college,” Gomez said.

Gomez credited her coaches for not only nominating her for the Gatorade award, but helping her ultimately win it under their tutelage.

“Makaiya is a once-in-a-lifetime player for any high school coach,” Copper Hills coach John Flores said in the release. “She is one of the most inspiring, humble, confident and unselfish kids I have ever coached.”

Gomez is the first Copper Hills softball player to win the Gatorade award, which made receiving it all the more meaningful.

“It’s an honor just because I know that I’m doing things that people haven’t done before, especially at Copper Hills,” Gomez said. “It’s crazy just to think that they considered and that I won. That what I’m doing is working, and working hard is finally paying off.”