Softball: Gilroy High grad goes from unsure Gavilan freshman to record-setting sophomore

Gavilan's Elaina Vasquez makes a throw to second during a game earlier this season. Vasquez went 2 for 3 with four RBIs on Tuesday against Mission.

Gavilan College softball coach Nikki Dequin tells a detailed story of how she set out a year ago to change Elaina Vasquez’s swing.

“Getting her to stay back a little more. She used to be a lot on the front foot,” Dequin said. “She wasn’t having a whole lot of success with that. We just tried to use more of her power and had her stay back a little bit more on her back leg and drive the ball, and it’s been a little bit more successful and productive.”

More than a little bit, in fact, as the sophomore third baseman from Gilroy High will soon leave the Rams’ program as a record holder.

Vasquez set Gavilan’s single-season home run record with a solo shot for her seventh homer of the season during a 6-5 home win over De Anza on March 28. She broke the old mark of six set by future Rams assistant coach Julie Broyer in 2008.

“The last home run, all I could do was smile as I was running around the bases because I knew I did it,” Vasquez said. “It finally dawned on me that I did it.”

In turn, Vasquez has given the Rams plenty to smile about.

Through 34 games this season, Vasquez is batting .245 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs. The 5-foot-5 slugger has a .500 slugging percentage, and brings some speed with six stolen bases.

Not bad for a player who felt unsure coming out of high school.

“I didn’t get to hit much in high school. That’s why my confidence was kind of low coming into Gav,” Vasquez said. “The coaching staff helped me out and my teammates helped me out.”

Gavilan has struggled to a record of 12-22 overall and 4-9 in the Coast Conference, but there have been signs that the young team could be turning the corner. The Rams have won two of their past three games, and gone 5-5 since March 16.

“The team has definitely improved from what it was in the fall and at the beginning of the season,” said Vasquez, one of only three sophomores on the team.

Vasquez’s seven homers are tied for 24th in the state as of Tuesday, according to the California Community College Athletic Association. The single-season conference record of 10 homers could be within reach.

“When I reached three (homers), it was like, ‘Oh, that’s a decent amount,’” Vasquez said. “But once I reached five, Nikki kept telling me, ‘Elaina, I think you can do it.’ Once I hit seven, that was great.

“I went up there with a lot of confidence. I had a good feeling that day. I was in a good mood, and it carried over into the game.”

Vasquez is close to finishing her associate degree in liberal arts, and she hopes to study psychology or kinesiology while playing softball at a four-year college.

“I’m still in Gilroy and I wanted to get out,” Vasquez said. “But I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ve had a great time on the team. It’s definitely not a lower level. I’m really proud and happy that I stayed. I’m improving my skills, and I get to play.

“I would highly recommend it. I’ve been there – I know most (high school) people’s mindset is, ‘I don’t want to be in Gilroy anymore,’ but I honestly think this was the best decision for me. Besides saving a lot of money, I’ve made a lot more friends, I get to play, I’ve improved my skill and the coaches here like to focus individually on the players.”

Vasquez has helped build a foundation for what looks like a promising future for the Rams.

Freshman shortstop and Sobrato graduate Heather Johnson is batting .387 with four home runs, 31 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Freshman catcher Kari Bittle is hitting .343 with 12 doubles and 23 RBIs.

Second baseman and Christopher product Kayla Medrano (.319, 14 RBIs), designated hitter Justine Armento (.282, 18 RBIs), and center fielder and Sobrato graduate Samantha Ribeiro (.264, 13 RBIs) give Dequin three more freshmen to build around.

And they’ve given Vasquez a close group of friends.

“I love this team,” she said. “We all have great chemistry, we all get along. We all know that we have each other’s backs in any circumstance or situation.”

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