The start of league is right around the corner for Delhi and Denair’s varsity softball teams.
Preseason is already in play and both sides have seen some upsides to the year after Tuesday concluded with high hopes of a successful year in the Southern Athletic League.
Delhi is off to an 0-4 start thus far while Denair is 2-2 after losing 22-2 to Riverbank on Tuesday afternoon.
“We honestly gave them 15 runs, guarantee they were unearned runs,” said Denair head coach Sean Smiley.
“We played big schools to start off,” said Delhi head coach Mike Andam. “I am getting my girls ready because Mariposa and Waterford are on a different level. We played a bunch of D 1 schools. There were highlights in some games, but I told the girls it’s the level we want to get to if we want to compete.”
Delhi softball was coming off an appearance at the St. Mary’s Classic Softball Tournament this past weekend where they took on Tokay, Tracy, Downey and Central Valley—all in higher divisions than Delhi.
The four losses didn’t matter much to Andam as he knew that the only way his team will progress is to be tested with some of the stiffest competition in the area.
“I don’t want to be in a low tournament since it won’t help us, but overall we did well,” said Andam. “We hit the ball, but we were just overpowered. Some teams are loaded with talent and can’t compete with that.”
Luckily for Delhi, they are competing in the SAL, a league that has the third and fourth spot quite frankly wide open after multiple teams graduated a herd of seniors.
“Goal for the girls is to go to the playoffs,” said Andam. “I noticed Gustine lost many players and Orestimba as well, the third and fourth spot looks open and our goal is to get one of those spots this year.”
In order to do so, his team will rely on returning pitcher Val Mercado along with seven returners that include Danielle Valdez, Carina Fernandez, Diana Contreras and freshman catcher Susana Torres.
“Hopefully, we get leadership from these girls,” said Andam. “Injury free is what we need. Girls stay healthy, if we do, we will do fine.”
First year head coach Smiley for Denair comes in with 17 years of experience coaching and is hoping that his knowledge can bring assistance to a Denair softball program that has struggled to compete for a league title since 2007, when the Coyotes went 15-0 for a league title.
“My biggest thing is trying to teach the game the right way and the fundamentals, which might be overlooked, and trying to stay ahead of the next play,” said Smiley. “And see what will happen, it’s been a tough transition with the girls I currently have.”
Only three current players have any experience competing at the travel ball level — Kelsey Park, Jessica Aguilar and Ileah Brantley.
“The experience is not where it should be yet,” said Smiley. “There are a lot of basics that we need to cover. We threw the challenge out there today to play .500 ball. If we can do that and be even in league that will be phenomenal and we want to set the bar high. If we can get fundamentals and come out and play even keel and work together, we will be pretty good for league.”
Denair’s first league contest will be at home against Gustine at 4 p.m. today.
Delhi’s first SAL contest will be at home against Orestimba at 4 p.m. today.