On May 17, the Turlock High School softball team saw their season come to an end at the hands of the Whitney High School Wildcats in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Since then, three Turlock Bulldogs have not let the loss faze them as they have continued to compete throughout the summer with their travel team.
Abbey Harrington, Angie Valenzuela and Ayla Lacerda all played for the Valley Rage travel fastpitch team this summer, which is based out of Atwater. Valenzuela has competed with the team for just over four years while Harrington and Lacerda joined the team a little under two years ago. While the team has had an abundance of success during that time, 2022 proved to be the pinnacle with this particular trio.
During Fourth of July weekend, the Rage took home second place in the Triple Crown Softball National tournament in Colorado, which saw 38 teams from across the nation compete. At the Nationals, they played 12 games, winning their first 11. The team wound up dropping their final contest, their third game of a tripleheader with no breaks to rest or eat in between.
Two weeks later, the Rage were determined to grab a first-place finish as they traveled to Reno to compete in the 18U World Series of Softball, a prestigious tournament made up of 49 top teams from across the country. The Rage went an impressive 9-0 which was good enough to clinch the championship.
“This season has been absolutely amazing,” Harrington said. “I’m newer to the team, but since I’ve been with Rage, all I’ve witnessed is success. Even then, this is probably the best season we’ve ever had.”
After all the tournaments and games this summer, the Rage have achieved a dominant record of 39-5.
Reflecting on their dominant season and championship campaign, Valenzuela agreed with Harrington that 2022 has been their most successful. Nevertheless, she explained that the success with their travel team is not only about the wins, but about the experience and development of local softball players.
“It’s not about the wins or losses, it’s about the progress,” Valenzuela said. “Every tournament and every game we learn something new. Ever since I’ve been with this team, these girls are winners.”
Harrington and Valenzuela were seniors this past season with the Bulldogs, graduating from THS back in May. Meanwhile, Lacerda will only be entering her sophomore year. The idea of Rage giving her extra opportunities to develop her skills, specifically leadership skills, is especially important to her.
“I realize that Angie and Abbey won’t be here next year, so that means I’ll have to step up,” Lacerda said. “It’s going to be tough without them, but I’m out here getting that extra experience.”
Now being high school graduates, not only will Valenzuela and Harrington be gone from their high school and travel ball teams, but they will soon be leaving the region to pursue collegiate careers. Valenzuela has been recruited by Eureka College in Illinois and will be leaving this weekend. Although she will be a bit closer, Harrington will head to UC Davis in September as she will try to walk-on with the Aggies softball team.
With the tight knit group prepared to go their separate ways, they are making sure that they maintain their bond with each other and their teams.
“We’re always going to stick together and be a family,” Lacerda said. “At the same time, I’m excited for the new girls to come in so that we can start a bigger family and work hard together. We want to continue everything we’ve done here.”
The trio hopes that their success between Turlock High and the Valley Rage can inspire future softball players in the area. Because the limited time players have on a school team or a high school team, Harrington believes that all players should play with zero regrets, and that the desired results will then come naturally.
“One of the biggest lessons I hope people can learn from us is to be positive and stay connected. Some of my teammates are my ride-or-dies. They’re with you for the experience and you only have so much time, so enjoy it. Savor those wins, the mistakes, the losses. Don’t hold back because you never know when your last game is going to be,” Harrington said.
Lacerda and Valenzuela nodded in agreement, knowing very well that this mindset was why their 2022 seasons lasted so much longer and why they’re walking away as World Series of Softball champions as high schoolers.