Hilmar High softball is on a mission to win the Trans-Valley League title this year — a strong statement for a team that has only finished as high as second in the TVL since 2005 on four separate occasions.
In order to accomplish that goal, Hilmar must continue its powerful play that was on display Tuesday after a 16-1 win over Le Grand that ended after five innings in a mercy-rule result.
“I think the momentum from the tournament carried over into today,” said Hilmar head coach Kara Olesen. “Tournament play is a great opportunity to take a chance. I think it’s a great opportunity to make any kid or player feel confident about their basic skills and hitting away.”
Prior to Tuesday’s win, Hilmar was coming off a 4-0 performance at the Rainbow Preseason Tournament, which earned them a first-place trophy in their bracket.
“It helps tempo wise,” said Olesen. “I think getting an early start in preseason is going to be key to the rest of the season.”
Hilmar will begin season play on the road Thursday against TVL power Hughson High.
From 2011-2015, Hughson softball lost just five games in the TVL.
“This was our last preseason game,” said Olesen. “Thursday, we will play Hughson and it will be a very good game; I think we will play like we have so far.”
With Tuesday’s win over Le Grand, Hilmar has won five consecutive games and have outscored its last five opponents 62-13. They are currently holding a 6-3 overall record.
“I believe we have more than enough talent to reach our goal,” said Olesen. “We set that goal and we just have to work. It’s always basic mechanics and communication and as long as we hit every step, we should be good. The goal is to at least get to a place where we can battle for a TVL title.”
Hilmar has a plethora of talent with a solid bench.
The four seniors anchoring the squad include Sarah Hughes, Katelyn Canella, Kassidy Mendes and Miranda Gray.
With pitcher Madison Aguiniga recovering from an injury she received in the offseason, Hilmar looked to a handful of pitchers that include Gray and Chavez—both who tossed on Tuesday.
Combined, they allowed just one run in five innings. Gray tossed four innings and allowed a run while Chavez tossed the fifth and final inning, striking out two of the three Le Grand batters she faced.
“I think some key players are some of those playing up the middle and again going up the middle, the corners are super strong,” said Olesen. “We are going to stay solid. It’s a good jump off from this point. We played all preseason games tough, I think we will play well in league all season.”
The team also includes Simpson University-bound junior McKenzie Martinez. Cheyann Hughes, Makayla Fontes and Kaitlyn Egli are also expecting breakout years.
The next game for Hilmar will be the start of the TVL on the road against Hughson at 4 p.m. Thursday.