The Central Valley experienced its first taste of a high school varsity softball All-Star showcase on Wednesday.
Pitman and Turlock sent a combined eight varsity players to compete in the inaugural Paul Leonardo Memorial Western Athletic Conference v. Central California Conference softball All-Star game on Wednesday night at Livingston High.
From Pitman were: Lehua DeLeon, Michelle Robinson, Spencer Bronken, Alexis Mettler, Morgan Aguiniga and Nicole Bailey. Aguiniga and Bailey were unable to play in the game because of an injury and a scheduling conflict. Turlock had senior Mariah Gonzalez and freshman Jessie Miranda competing at the inaugural event.
“Really it feels pretty good to be here since it’s my first experience along with everybody else's in the area,” said DeLeon. “I am playing with girls I have played with before and it’s a really good experience as a freshman and going up against seniors. Really it’s awesome.”
Eventually, the WAC would win the contest in walk-off fashion after Ceres' soon-to-be junior, Rayohna Sagapolu hit a two-run single off Atwater ace Cheyenne Mahy up the middle to give the WAC a 7-6 win in the ninth inning.
The game was put together by Livingston coach Joe Leonardo, who organized in memory of his borther, a longtime coach for the area. A large crowd was in attendance for the inaugural event.
Shyan Crutcher of Golden Valley won the pregame home run derby, driving four home-runs.
“I know a long time ago they used to have an all-star game for seniors but this was something else, it was a great experience and especially when they asked me to do it I said, 'yes, of course,'” CCC head coach Robert Santistevan said.
Wednesday's game proved to be an ultra aggressive competition between two sides with multiple Division I collegiate prospects with the lead was given and taken by both sides throughout the nine inning game.
Gonzalez of Turlock started the game on the mound for the CCC as she tossed two innings and allowed only one run in the first inning. She also pitched out of a jam in the second inning with two runners on and picked up the strikeout to end the threat.
“It was exciting to play with all these great players in league and I play with many in travel ball so it was fun to play with them, just a good time out here,” said Gonzalez.
Pitman's Mettler would eventually relieve Gonzalez, starting with the third inning, but unfortunately allowed a run in the third before going three-up and three-down in the fourth.
With a 2-2 score, Mettler then did damage with the bat as she hit a two-run single in the fifth to give the CCC a 4-2 lead for a brief moment.
Ceres junior Nicole Bates answered in the bottom half with a two-run homer off Mettler and the WAC took a 5-4 after an RBI single from Sagapolu.
Merced players Monique Collins, Shelbee Ward and Megan Kravec delivered a two-run rally in the sixth for the CCC. The three each had a hit with Collins and Ward scoring to give the CCC a 6-5 lead.
Cassie Gasper of El Capitan pitched the eighth and ninth innings for WAC, keeping the CCC scoreless and in the ninth she struck out the side.
WAC rallied with a single each from Pacheco’s Gia Rodoni and Ceres’ Mahlena O’Neal. El Capitan’s McKenzie Schumacher came in as a courtesy runner for O’Neal and both runners advanced because of a wild pitch. The WAC victory was sealed when Sagapolu notched her third hit of the night, giving her a total of three RBIs.
“As a coach it’s an honor to hang with all that talent with great players,” said Santistevan. “We don't coach much or teach much, just letting them play for fun. It’s not about winning or losing, it is about having a good time and making new friends.”
Pitman comes off their best regular season with a 20-6 overall record while holding an 11-4 CCC record and will return all but four of the team’s starters from this past season.
“I will continue to have fun and I will never let my team down and I will just have fun and play the game,” DeLeon added.
Turlock ends the season at 9-17-1 overall while head coach Jill Ogden was named the CCC coach of the year. The Bulldogs return their entire roster of starters from last season.
“It was nice to have girls that can compete in the CCC. We all worked together more than in previous years and we all got along together and we listened to the coaches more,” Gonzalez added. “We have a lot of talent coming up and it’s the same as last year, so we can only improve by adding players.”