Thursday’s first meeting between rivals Denair and Delhi high softball was a good test for two groups that are on the verge of turnaround seasons.
Both teams boast rosters full of underclassmen. While there are just a few seniors on each team, they made a difference. Delhi’s Valerie Mercado pitched a complete game on Thursday and also blasted her first home-run of her four-year varsity career to lead to the Hawks to a 7-3 win from Denair High.
“Val has been helping out the younger players and she is always positive. One thing you don’t hear negatives from her, always positives from her, so it is great to have her as a leader.” said Delhi head coach Mike Andam.
Delhi has already won six games this year, the same number of victories the Hawks earned over the previous two seasons combined.
This year they are already 6-7 and 3-3 in the Southern League.
Denair is off to an 0-7-1 start, but this game against Delhi was their second closest game of the year and they were down just a run in the third.
“My expectations were to keep the game close. We have a very young team, so we want to play competitive and we did… we did a lot of good things. I see our girls improving and coming together as a team. Fundamentally, they are going well,” said Denair head coach Joe Esquivel. “This is probably the best game we have played as a team. We just have to get our bats going.”
Denair lost to Gustine, 15-13, back on March 21, but this game was almost just as close.
Delhi went up 3-0 by the bottom of the second inning.
From there Denair added a pair of runs and cut the lead to 3-2 heading into the third.
Freshman starting pitcher Kinzy Perkins matched Delhi’s Mercado with seven innings pitched and helped keep it close, despite some errors from a very young squad for the Coyotes.
“I have two seniors, the rest are juniors, sophomores and freshmen — I have about four freshmen — so we have a pretty young club that is doing okay,” said Esquivel. “Perkins is the pitcher and catcher is a freshman as well; Caitlin Warda is doing a good job.”
The roster currently boasts eight freshmen and sophomores combined.
Delhi’s also young squad took advantage of some miscues and capitalized when their opportunities came.
Mercado allowed just one more run in the final five innings while the offense tacked on four more runs that included a two-run shot from Mercado in the top of the sixth inning.
Mercado finished the complete game, tossing seven innings, while striking out nine.
“Goal is to improve off last year, and so far, we have because last year we had four wins all year and now we have six wins,” said Andam. “So, we are doing much better and our goal is to improve every game and not put too much pressure on them. I just tell them to come out and relax and have fun.”
Delhi will continue to lean towards other young standouts to assist Mercado, such as Mariela Aguilar, Mayce Alfaro, Jenna Rivera, Susan Torres and Julissa Ponce.
“Everyone in the infield has been solid and we are going to be good. Next year we have two starting freshmen pitchers coming up,” Andam added. “Beginning of the year I put some pressure on them because of the hard work we put it during the summer and offseason, but I may have done too much so the last three games I relaxed and let them play and seems to work so far.”
“We are going to see great improvement by the end of the year and next year we will be really competitive,” Esquivel added. “We’ll keep progressing throughout the year and they are improving with their knowledge of the game.”
Delhi’s next game will be at home against Ripon Christian at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The next game for Denair will be at home against Mariposa at 4 p.m. Tuesday.