Ellazar’s Coming Home
Mauian with international, collegiate experience to play at Manoa in UH tourney
As a member of the Philippines national team, Skylynne Ellazar has recently played in the World Cup of Softball, the Canada Cup and the Asian Softball Championships in Taiwan.
The Asian Games in Indonesia and World Championships in Chiba, Japan, are on the docket this summer.
While the Olympics also could be on the horizon for the Baldwin High School graduate who is currently a senior standout at the University of Maryland, a trip this week may be the most personally meaningful for her so far.
Ellazar will lead the Terps to Honolulu this week as they play in the Bank of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic.
“It’s the first time I will be going back home to play since states high school senior year,” Ellazar said in a phone interview last week. “It’s crazy to think about. I never thought I would be playing back there. I thought my last game there was going to be my last game ever there just because I knew where I was going and I was like, ‘There’s no way we’re going to go back to Hawaii and play.’
“A lot of my family has never seen me play in college before, so it’ll be great to have them all there. Just to be at home and have my teammates experience Hawaii at the same time, it’s going to be fun.”
Maryland plays Friday against Tennessee at Manoa. They will play North Dakota and Tennessee, again, on Saturday before closing the event against Hawaii on Sunday.
It was a trip that third-year UM head coach Julie Wright felt she had to schedule. Ellazar has been a stalwart in the program for four years, helping Wright establish the groundwork for success.
“It was so important, I was so pleased that the administration backed me on this, and I was so excited to be able to tell Sky that we were going to be able to take her home,” Wright said. “She deserves it, she’s earned it. Just getting her there and knowing how she feels about Hawaii, . . . she has great pride, and just being able to go back there and have her show us all the things she’s talked to us about, I’m truly just so excited for her and for the program to be able to do this.”
Ellazar has been a special player for the Terps as an infielder. After appearing in just 21 games as a freshman, she broke out as a sophomore when she started 49 times and hit. 399, third-best in Maryland history. Last year as a team captain, she started 51 games and hit .297. She has started all 24 games this season and leads the team with a .333 batting average.
The Terps were 27-27 her freshman season but went a combined 23-79-1 the next two seasons. They are 7-17 so far this year.
Ellazar will graduate with a degree in criminology and criminal justice in a couple months. Wright has plans to keep her around the program as a graduate assistant coach.
“Sky is someone you don’t want to graduate, she’s such a program kid, she’s a great teammate, a wonderful young lady to coach and mentor,” Wright said. “She’s very driven, she has great pride at Maryland.”
Ellazar’s goal is to help Maryland turn the program around and to be part of that turnaround, Wright said.
“I’ve always been impressed with her as a young woman, her work ethic, how driven she is to be the best, how much she cares about her teammates and the program,” Wright said. “She is just a tremendous kid. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to coach her.”
Ellazar was a big part of the Philippines’ silver-medal finish in the Asian Softball Championships in December. She had a walk-off hit in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 4-3 win over China. They lost in the championship game to Japan, the world’s No. 1-ranked team.
Ellazar has played in wins over world power Australia and Chinese Taipei, twice. She was part of a 4-0 loss to the U.S. in the World Cup.
With their silver medals from Taiwan, the Philippines qualified for the Asian Games and World Championships this summer, where Olympic qualifying spots will be on the line.
“I want to try and stay around softball a little bit, help out the (Maryland) team a little bit and try to finish a master’s degree,” Ellazar said. “It’s been amazing, being able to play softball with different people, getting to travel the world and play against other people that don’t speak English, the best in the world. . . . It’s going to be a fun summer.”
It would take a trip to the final at worlds or a title in the Asian Games to qualify for the Olympics, but if either happens it would stretch Ellazar’s career to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
She is among the latest NCAA Division I softball standouts from the Maui Interscholastic League and one of the first to do so on an international stage.
“Growing up with people like Kaleo Eldredge and Sanoe Kekahuna and all them being my role models showed me the way,” Ellazar said. “Kaleo definitely put it in my sight, that that’s not far-fetched. She always reminded me that I am good enough to play against the players on the Mainland, that I can make it happen.”
There is a definite pride that comes with wearing “Philippines” on her chest. She is eligible to play with the Philippines national team through her father’s ancestry.
Ellazar trained in the country prior to going to Taiwan in December. “It was an eye-opener,” she said.
“The lives these girls grew up with and the things they have to deal with, I would never think about,” she said.
They have to be concerned about the necessities of life, like getting clean water and finding clothes. Still, her teammates “have so much love and passion for the game,” she said.
“It made me realize that it is a game, and there’s more to this,” Ellazar said. “It’s not just about stats and who wins and who loses.
“Getting to play with them on the field and just see how happy they get, it was just such a great feeling for me.”
* Robert Collias can be reached at rcollias@maui news.com.