In just her second season as the head coach of the Hilmar varsity softball team, Kara Olesen was able to lead the Yellowjackets into the postseason for the first time since 2012 after they finished fourth in the Trans-Valley League.
This earned them a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V bracket where they went in as the No. 6 seed and went on the road to take on No. 3 Mariposa on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the ‘Jackets’ postseason quickly ended with an 11-0 mercy-rule decision.
“We improved every year, getting better and better, that is what led to a chance at playoffs,” said Olesen, who is also a Turlock High graduate and former softball player. “I think the goal last year was to have a chance at playoffs and goal this year was to make the playoffs.”
They did, and it was a grind, with the team battling for every victory along their journey.
Hilmar finished the regular season with a 14-11 record prior to Wednesday's game.
The big turnaround, however, was back on April 25, when Hilmar swept Riverbank in a two-game doubleheader, essentially clinching their playoff spot at the time, with a TVL record of 6-4.
“Those wins over Riverbank, solidified our playoff spot,” said Olesen.
They lost their final two league games to Escalon and Ripon, the top two seeds in the D-V bracket.
“I think we went in excited, since it’s been a while since they made the postseason,” said Olesen. “They were excited and felt confident, since it was what we were working for.”
Mariposa was a powerhouse the entire game, with only one inning where they didn’t score a run.
Mariposa tacked on six and four runs, respectively, in the two even innings, and by the time the top of the fifth ended, the mercy-rule was in effect.
“Mariposa is a great team, very good hitters and aggressive at-bats,” said Olesen. “We did have a couple base runners left on and I think not moving kids around was a key that did not happen.”
Hilmar was held to three hits and committed a pair of errors and Mariposa finished with 10 hits and only one error.
The ‘Jackets end the year with an overall record of 14-12.
“I am very happy with the season. We made a goal, got to it and it’s only going to get better,” said Olesen. “I think all the basic mechanical skills have been to push further and be more aggressive and push envelope on bases, and it’s going well for us, the steps we are taking to get through playoff games.”