FRISCO, Texas – Five Southland softball student-athletes were named to the 2018 Google Cloud Academic All-America® Teams, the College of Sports Information Directors of America announced Monday. Sam Houston State pitcher Lindsey McLeod and Houston Baptist shortstop Demi Janak are third-team selections. McLeod, a 2018 All-Conference Second Team member, set a single-season strikeout record (222) for the Bearkats in her junior season in which she kept a 4.0 GPA as a public health major. Janak, who finished her junior season leading HBU in batting average and home runs, is a 4.0 student as an accounting major. The five total selections are second only to the SEC, which led all conferences with six members. Each Southland member has a 4.0 GPA; of the 30 honorees scattered across the three teams, only 19 members have a perfect GPA. For a complete list of the 2018 Google Cloud Academic All-America® selections, visit here. Nicholls pitcher Megan Landry was selected for the second team after a junior season that saw her win Southland Pitcher of the Year while keeping a 4.0 GPA as a secondary education-English major. Abilene Christian first baseman Brianna Barnhill joins Landry on the second team. Barnhill completed her college career with a spotless GPA as a kinesiology major. Central Arkansas shortstop Kate Myers leads the Southland as the lone pick to the first team. Myers becomes the first student-athlete in program history to earn first-team recognition and just the second to receive All-America honors. Wrapping up her senior season for the Bears, Myers maintained a 4.0 GPA majoring in Biology and minoring in sports psychology. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native was one of two student-athletes to receive the Southland’s F.L. McDonald Scholarship to be applied toward graduate studies. She will continue her academic career at Oklahoma State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Fast-forward to Aug. 13, 2005. Sammy was walking down an alley with Juan Pedroza, who had a distinctive limp from a childhood car accident, according to court documents. Diaz, Vega and Betancourt were nearby at a party when they spotted the two. Diaz asked if Pedroza was the “fool who ratted on Clumsy.” It’s unclear if they thought he was Victor Pedroza and mistakenly targeted him. “Let’s (mess) him up,” Betancourt said before he charged toward Pedroza. Betancourt threw the first punch, then Vega jumped in. Pedroza, who had a metal plate in his head, had little use of one arm. Sammy jumped in, trying to fend them off. Moments later, Diaz pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. During Thursday’s hearing, a bald-headed Diaz shot glances at rows of red-eyed relatives and smiled a few times while Vega kept his eyes focused ahead. Diaz’s attorney, Robert Schwartz, said trial witnesses contradicted each other, and his client was not involved in the shooting. “For my client to be convicted under this evidence is a miscarriage,” he said after the sentencing. But when Vega’s attorney asked the judge to reconsider his stiffer sentence, she said, “It’s one arrest after another. If he isn’t a perfect example of recidivism, I don’t know what is.” The lead investigator on the case, Los Angeles police Detective Steve Castro, called the outcome “a great day for justice. Gangs like to intimidate; they don’t like people speaking against them, making crime reports,” said Castro, who attended the sentencing. “It weakens their gang.” Bravo, a housekeeper, sat in the back of the courtroom as the judge spoke. Her stomach knotted. Her heart felt as if someone stepped on it. “It has been hard on me,” she said. “Since that day, I am not the same person anymore.” Afraid of retribution, she and her 13-year-old daughter moved from their North Hollywood home with the help of law enforcement. She was even escorted to her car Thursday by sheriff’s deputies for protection. At home, she keeps a candle burning next to her son’s photograph in her living room. Every birthday, every holiday, the sorrow begins anew. On that August night two years ago, she knew something was wrong. She had just arrived in California the year before after escaping an abusive husband in Texas and had tried so hard to protect her son from violence. “I felt something in my heart,” she said, recalling how she went searching the neighborhood for Sammy that night. “When I went to go look for him, I saw a lot of ambulance and police. They already had him in the bed. I was running and crying and they didn’t let me close to him.” At the hospital, she watched as he clung to life. “I told him how much I love him and I didn’t want to miss him, and not to go,” she said. He died 10 minutes later. For the latest news and observations on crime in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, check out the Daily News’ crime blog by clicking here.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m. Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp sentenced Enrique Diaz, 32, to 40 years to life in prison for shooting Sammy in the head. Sammy had intervened when several other gangsters were beating up his disabled friend, Juan Pedroza, whom they considered a snitch for talking to police about another case. Luis “Wicked” Vega, 28, who participated in the killing, was sentenced to 55 years to life because he had a prior “strike” under the state’s “three strikes” law for using a cane to beat someone. Both maintain their innocence and will appeal, their attorneys said. Another defendant, Marcos “Shyster” Betancourt, who was 14 at the time and struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against Diaz and Vega, is awaiting sentencing. He likely will be sent to the California Youth Authority and be released when he is 25. Prosecutors called the case a classic example of gang intimidation and revenge that ended in the worst way. A few months before the killing, Pedroza’s brother Victor was harassed by Roberto “Clumsy” Fletes, a parolee and North Hollywood Boyz member. Fletes demanded Pedroza pay “taxes” because he believed he was selling drugs on the gang’s turf. But Victor Pedroza refused and went to the police to file a report against Fletes, eventually testifying against him at a parole hearing. VAN NUYS – The day Leticia Bravo’s 15-year-old son was shot to death by gang members for trying to protect his disabled friend is the day her own slow death began. “They killed my son, but they killed me,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “You don’t die immediately. The pain goes on and you die day by day.” Thursday, when a judge sentenced the two North Hollywood Boyz members to more than 40 years in prison each for killing Sammy Salas, Bravo said she had at least ended the most painful chapter of her life. “I hope some day they will be sorry,” she said. “I don’t know why they did it. It is nothing Sammy did to them.”