By ALLISON EHRHARDT
SALEM — Allie Mendez stared at the ceiling.
“God, if you’re real, if you’re here, please let me live,” she prayed.
It was 2012 and Mendez was in Stockton, Calif.. In August of that year, she had been drugged, raped and sold online into the dark world of human sex trafficking. In December, she was kidnapped by gang affiliations.
She was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling of a gang member’s house when she surrendered to God and made that plea. She knew the gang planned to kill her. The next morning, a woman arrived at the house in a black SUV.
“Leave,” a gang member said. “If we ever see your face again, we’ll kill you.”
Allie Mendez was not coming back.
It’s 2016 now, almost four years after that night in the house. Mendez this spring was a standout for the softball team at Corban University in Salem.
“Looking back at where I was, in a way, that feels like it all happened to a different person,” said Mendez. “But where I am now, playing college softball at a university, this feels like a dream.”
Mendez knew God existed after that night in the house in California. As she got clean and completed rehabilitation, she actively sought Him. But it wasn’t always easy.
A softball standout at Lodi High School in California, Mendez got caught up with the wrong crowd in 2006. After seven years of narcotics use, and as a victim of the horrors of human trafficking, she thought she was done with softball. She was wrong.
In 2013, she started playing in coed slow pitch games. In January 2014, she was introduced to the San Joaquin Delta College softball coach. On Feb. 6, 2014, Mendez asked God to be in her life. She spent her first year at Delta getting reacquainted with the game and going through workouts. By the 2015 season, Mendez was a starting pitcher for the Mustangs.
“My coaches (at Delta) knew that I was newly saved and that finding a school to play at that was Christian-based was really important to me.” Mendez said. “I visited Corban and knew I wanted to come here.”
Head coach Nathan Ohta made sure that happened in the fall of 2015, when Mendez signed her national letter of intent to play for the Warriors.
“He was contacting me on and off, then I didn’t talk to him for a while,” Mendez recalled. “After a little bit of time, I was talking to the coach at the College of Idaho about playing. Ohta heard about that and asked me to come visit Corban.”
“We had her up for a campus visit and one conversation and tryout and we knew we wanted her to be a part of this team,” said Ohta. “She has been a huge part of our success on the field this season, but more importantly, the passion for her faith she demonstrates daily and her hunger to love and grow closer to the Lord is infectious.”
Mendez made an impact on a team that finished the 2016 campaign with a 35-19 overall record, including an 18-10 Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) record. A starting pitcher, Mendez holds a 2.77 ERA, allowing 49 earned runs in 123.2 innings pitched. On the other side of the plate, the lefty compiled an impressive .372 batting average offensively, racking up 42 hits in 113 at-bats in 43 games played.
“God is incredible,” Mendez said. “Before every game, I breathe in His light and His love to calm me down. Practicing mindfulness is something I do every day and He is all of that … Things that would take us years to do, He does that in two minutes.”
A junior academically and athletically, Mendez is studying behavioral science, with plans of working with at-risk youth.
“I want to work in prevention and recovery and be able to give back,” Mendez said. “God saved me and I want to be able to help others through Him and my work.”
She is also a mentor for women battling addiction.
“I was there. I was there and I want to give them the same help I got in order to be and stay clean,” she said.
As for softball, Mendez and the Warriors advanced to the 2016 CCC Tournament, taking fourth place in the tournament while seeing their season come to a close there.
Mendez knows that success in sports is a combination of hard work and trusting in God.
“It’s amazing, softball is the image of God’s promises to us, and it’s that fruitfulness that is there when you trust in Him. Here at Corban, playing softball, I’m getting to flourish in those years I lost.”
Writer Allison Ehrhardt is from Rogue River and graduated recently from Corban University.