Photo of Kami Flores by Russell Marwitz/russellmarwitz.com
ROGERS, Texas-In the spring of 2020, Kami Flores returned to her hometown of Grandview, Texas, unsure of what was next. Her freshman season at UMHB had ended abruptly after just 15 games, three of which she pitched in, due to the pandemic. So if for no other reason than to stay around the sport she loved, Flores took up coaching with a few area teams during the summer months that followed.
“I tried to give back to my community during that really weird time,” Flores recalls.
At the time, she was a pre-physical therapy major at UMHB. But after that summer, she realized that she had developed a new passion. It led to a shift in her future plans, as taking the coaching route entered the picture.
“I went back and got into [coaching],” Flores said. “I changed my mind and decided that [coaching was the way I wanted to go. Right after our season [this spring], I had a couple of interviews, and it really felt into place very quickly.”
UMHB’s season–and Flores’ senior year–ended on May 20 in an NCAA Tournament regional final against Berry College. On June 1, Rogers High School, located about 18 miles southeast of Belton, announced Flores as their head softball coach. Things indeed fell into place quickly.
“It’s a huge blessing and opportunity,” said Flores, who also will be an assistant volleyball coach.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking for a head coaching job. But after a few of the interviews I went on, meeting the people at Rogers, and knowing the history of Rogers’ winning programs, I felt like it was somewhere where I could go and have an impact. Hopefully I can build on what they already have going for them.”
Rogers’ success on the softball diamond speaks for itself. The Eagles went 20-7 this past season, and in 2019, won the district with an 11-2 record. They reached the UIL 3A Regional Semifinals in that season, posting a 31-7 mark. This is the program that Flores inherits, one with a winning background and precedent for success.
She knows success, too. UMHB finished with a winning record in all four of her seasons in Belton, and in the last two, tallied 30-plus wins. Flores’ pitching played a significant role in the Cru’s historic season this past spring, as UMHB reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
And at Grandview High School, her senior year saw the Zebras go 29-9 winning three playoff games. In 2018, Grandview reached the state tournament, posting a near-perfect 40-2 record as Flores and her twin sister, Kylee, led the way. So in any case, it is obvious that Flores knows what it takes to establish a winning program. But she also has mentors who are more than glad to offer their guidance along the way.
“Coach [Melissa] Mojica and Coach [Leah] Guest have told me that they’re very proud of me and I will do great,” Flores said. “If I need any help, they’re always just one text away. And the same goes for a bunch of my previous coaches from high school and select ball. They’re there for me.
“The Rogers coaches have also stepped out of their spots and provided help with any question I have. I feel very comfortable and I’m excited to get to work with them. The girls are very hard-workers. I’m excited.”
Fitting in with a new program is something Flores experienced as a player, when she arrived at UMHB on somewhat of a whim. Previously committed to another collegiate program, she was not initially sure if she would stay at UMHB permanently. Looking back four years later, she is glad she did.
“When I came into college, I was very unsure if I was going to stick around,” Flores recalls. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it and fit in. But after Covid, we had a coaching change, and Coach Mojica and Coach Guest refueled my love for the game. They reasserted that this is where I was supposed to be and God had put me here for a reason.”
The leadership of Mojica and Guest at UMHB, as well as the impact made by Grandview high school coach Ron Holton, ultimately propelled Flores onto the coaching route.
“[Coach Holton] has been very big on saying, ‘You have so much knowledge. Don’t give up on yourself or the people you are helping,’” Flores said. “That’s been very big.”
That “knowledge” for the sport especially revealed itself in this past season, Flores’ first as a full-time starting pitcher for the Cru. In her first three years in Belton, she appeared in 22 games in the circle, starting seven. In the 2023 season? She pitched in 31 contests, starting 19 of them. She did so while posting a 1.75 ERA, 16-7 record, in 131.2 innings pitched, en route to being named ASC Tri-Pitcher of the Year.
“The first three years I was here, we were very good,” Flores noted. “I felt like we didn’t get as far as we wanted. One of my main focuses coming in was I wanted to do anything I could to help the team go and get where we needed to be.”
Flores and Grason Long formed perhaps the best starting pitching duo in the American Southwest Conference, as both were ranked highly in a number of stat categories within the league. When Flores was informed of her selection as one of the conference’s three pitchers of the year, she was both honored and surprised at the same time.
“When Coach Mojica pulled me aside and told me, I was shocked for a second, because it didn’t set in,” Flores said. “I was very blessed to have gotten that award.
“There were several pitchers in the conference who could’ve gotten it because of how deep our conference is in pitching. I was grateful that one person on our pitching staff got it, regardless of whether it was me or not.”
For Flores, the program at UMHB will forever mean more than just a collection of awards, or wins, or in-game memories. Her time in Belton as a Crusader yielded lasting friendships and memories, and it helped her get through a series of struggles that came about in this past year.
“It was even more special this year because it was the last, but also the girls on the team, the coaches, they made it so much better,” Flores said recently. “I had a couple things going on with my family this past season and they were always there to help give me a way to get away from all that.
“If I needed someone to go throw overhand with me one day because I needed a little stress relief, they were there. They made it special. It was very hard when we did get [eliminated from the NCAA Tournament]. It took me a few days to go back and say ‘We did accomplish history.’ But it made it a lot easier to walk away from. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out.”