Hilmar High softball head coach Paul Willis is optimistic about the upcoming season.
Willis inherited a playoff squad from a year ago that earned a berth in the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs after placing fourth in the Trans-Valley League.
From that squad, however, only five return and nine are underclassmen, but the outlook for the future is bright, according to Willis.
“Escalon is good, Ripon is good, Hughson is always good, so we are expecting to compete and if we play like we can, we will compete,” said Willis. “Any time you compete the score can be different. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, we just need to come out and compete.”
Willis is expecting his young squad to come out and make strides as the year carries on into league.
They fell in their opening contest in the TVL, but it was close.
So far after nine games, the Yellowjackets are 5-4 after losing to Hughson in the TVL opener on Thursday afternoon, 6-5.
Hilmar won their first three games, outscoring their opponents, 28-4, before dropping two straight, including a 12-0 shutout to Pitman back on March 7.
“We are kind of where we thought we would be but playing the caliber of Pitman....you get better playing teams that are really good,” said Willis. “We were just hoping we didn’t have a repeat of last time we played them, that was a bit of a shocker.”
The Yellowjackets battled back and nearly found redemption against a still-undefeated Pitman Pride squad on Tuesday, but barely lost 4-3.
Hilmar has lost by one-run in two of their four losses so far.
“I think that is what happens when you play teams like that, the second time around you are more prepared for them,” said Willis. “We also had a lot of girls that were out last year and are back.”
One of those was Madison Aguiniga, who took the mound against a red-hot Pride offense and held them to just four runs.
“It is nice to see Madison back out there pitching, she is getting better each game. It’s too bad that league starts so soon,” said Willis. “We are looking forward to a good season, to compete and hopefully get one of those four playoff spots, that is kind of our goal, then if something else happens that is good too.”
Hilmar’s next game is on the road at Modesto Christian High at 4 p.m. Tuesday.