VC’s unexpected softball season

Senior Kee-Puen Calac has been VC’s most productive hitter. Photo by Lenny Kerbs

No one intimately involved with the Valley Center High softball program, be it coaches or players, saw this type of season coming.
They had genuine hopes that the 2023 campaign could at least approach or even exceed the 16-12 overall record of the previous ballclub.
But in sports as in life, plans can go awry and unexpected twists and turns can lead to an unforeseen journey.
Truthfully, the Jag softballers have traveled down a path they frankly didn’t anticipate. But ill fortune, the whims of Mother Nature and inconsistent situational hitting conspired to saddle the Jags with a 4-13 win-loss ledger as of this writing.
Yes, there were mitigating circumstances but ultimately, you are what your record says you are.
For sure, VC has sorely missed the leadership and energy of productive players like Desiree Jones and MacKenzie Farley, whose graduations left real voids in the lineup.
Compounding matters was the torn ACL that standout Hannah Stehly suffered during the basketball season which made her unavailable for softball duty. A slick centerfielder who excelled at leading off and scoring runs, the gifted Stehly knew how to get on base, hit and steal. Without her, the Jags absorbed a damaging blow.
Nonetheless, VC had accomplished players returning—such as Adrielle Flores, Jazimin Tapia, Lauren Stehly and Kee-Puen Calac—that suggested good results could nonetheless be realized.
But a painful start to the season dogged the Jags. Stunningly, VC lost 10 of its first 11 contests. Excuses are easy to come by but the reasons for such a disappointing beginning were real.
To start with, some girls were still involved with their winter sport commitments, forcing them to miss the early season.
Then unprecedented weather caused a slew of rainouts and significantly impacted practice time because fields had turned into unplayable quagmires.
And on the diamond, while the Jags were getting sufficient runners on base, they weren’t producing the clutch and timely base knocks necessary to drive them in. Low run totals became both a bane and the norm. In their initial nine games, the Jags scored two or fewer runs on seven occasions.
However, an in-season trip to Hawaii proved to be a balm for the struggling Jags. On the island of Oahu the girls developed a much tighter bond and grew closer as a team. They set a different tone and aspirations for the balance of the season were recalibrated.
Two other points worthy of mention also took place in Honolulu.
In an impressive victory, the Jags pounded out a massive 24 hits during a 16-5 pasting of Pearl City. The team also learned valuable lessons just by competing against Wai’anae, a splendid squad populated by a number of Division I commits and rated No. 2 in the Aloha State.
So when the club returned to the mainland, they were— in the words of likeable co-head coach Jenna Wilson – who shares Jaguar managerial responsibilities with Melissa Requilman – “A better and more focused group.”
Presently, the Jags are giving off a much better vibe—having won three of their last six contests. And don’t look now but with a contending 2-2 record in the Avocado (North County) League and with six games yet to play in that circuit, Wilson believes her team can make a bona fide run at a title if it maintains a high energy level and cashes in on its opportunities to score. “There have been periods of frustration when we haven’t been consistent,” says Wilson, “but over the last two weeks we’ve been coming together. The bats have begun waking up a bit. I absolutely think we can be a factor in league.”
Without question they’ll need to be if VC is to hold out any hope of advancing to the postseason. Either the Jags cop a league championship or their playoff chances go up in smoke.
In order to make a strong push towards that end, the Jags will need major contributions from most if not all of those mentioned below.
In versatile outfielder Kamryn Harris, VC has a quick-handed and strong athlete who has recently been on fire. This sophomore can bunt, flex some power and hit for average (.350).
Flores is a hard worker and a veritable vacuum at shortstop. With the stick, Flores (.327 avg) knows how to go up the middle and stands out when it comes to situational hitting. She’s as reliable as they come; whether with the glove or at the plate.
Second baseman Paa’ila Devers is a valuable lefty swinger who makes hard contact, gets aboard and is adept at starting rallies.
Another soph of influence has been Winter Molina, who fills a utility role. Armed with a smooth stroke, Molina is third on the team in hits (16), can shoot the ball up the gut and is regarded as a superior bunter.
Freshman Su’la Devers has shown considerable promise as a DH/catcher. This Devers (.368 avg) is a strong hitter who can smoke the ball and drive it into the power alleys. Devers’s potential upside is thought to be considerable.
VC’s most dangerous bat belongs to third baseman Kee-Puen Calac. Blessed with quick hands and strength, Calac can explode into the ball and give it a substantial ride. The team leader in hits (18) and doubles (7) and owner of a hefty .367 average, Calac also shows surprising speed on the basepaths. A quiet leader who’s always smiling, Calac’s value to the Jags is enormous.
On the mound is where Tapia exerts the most influence. Equipped with serviceable movement on her deliveries, Tapia is a pitch-to-contact hurler who seeks to keep the ball in play. A 10-game winner last season, if Tapia is on her game, she can be dependable and effective.
Two others to keep an eye on are pitcher Andrea Venegas, who has made 11 appearances while combining with Tapia and L. Stehly, a hitting standout last year (.330) who is showing signs of coming to life lately.
One other factor that could contribute to a strong push by the Jags down the stretch is that their senior contingent wants to make some noise before their time at VC is done. Having played together for many years, this group desperately desires going out on an upbeat and positive note. Should they do so, it would certainly put a different spin on this rather unexpected season.
Memories of a satisfying ending would certainly help salve the wounds of such a struggling start.

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