Softball: Blackjacks hit it big at Twin Creeks

The Hollister Blackjacks 12-and-under team won the prestigious ASA Girls Fastpitch ASA NorCal State Tournament. 

Throughout the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Girls Fastpitch Northern California State tournament, Andrew Barragan heard coaches, parents and friends from opposing teams dismiss his squad.
Barragan, who is the owner and coach of the Hollister Blackjacks 12-and-under softball team that went 5-0 to win the prestigious NorCal championship on June 21 at Twin Creeks in Sunnyvale, was still on Cloud Nine a day after his team’s performance.
As a result of winning NorCals, the Blackjacks qualified for the ASA Nationals in Roseville from July 27 to Aug. 2.
“Our goal was to get to the championship game, but I didn’t think we’d win the whole freaking thing,” he said. “We took only 10 girls because two of our players were laid up (injured) and another was on vacation. Most teams are bringing 13 to 14 girls, so we’re basically limping into this tournament. It was like David and Goliath.”
And once again, the underdog prevailed in stunning fashion. Against a deep, quality field that featured some of the best and most established traveling softball programs in Northern California, the Blackjacks proved they’ve arrived.
Hollister won five games over three days, beating the Lightning Elite 5-0, the Storm Armento 8-0 and the San Jose Strikkers 5-1 before edging the NorCal Smackers 6-5 in the championship game.
In the title contest, the Blackjacks broke a 4-4 tie with two runs in the top of the fourth inning, capped by a run-scoring single from Hailey Hommel. The Smackers scored a run in the sixth to cut their deficit to 6-5 before putting the potential-tying run at third with no outs in the seventh.
When Blackjacks pitcher Drew Barragan threw a pitch that bounced away from catcher Kendall McPhillips, the NorCal player raced for home. McPhillips did a great job of corralling the ball before tossing it to Barragan, who made the tag for the out.
On the play, Barragan suffered a dislocation on her non-pitching thumb, Andrew Barragan said. Moments later, Drew shooed her father away when he came out to the circle to see if she was OK.
“I go back in the dugout, and she gets a strikeout and popout to close it out,” Barragan said.
Hommel had a game-high three hits and three RBIs, and Barragan allowed four earned runs and struck out five in a complete-game, 118-pitch effort. McPhillips had a double and triple, while Barragan and Kaiya Dickens had two hits each.
“Kendall has been our team MVP,” Barragan said. “She’s caught every game and is solid for us in every area of the game.”
Barragan is also having another MVP-type season, pitching all but one of the team’s innings. In the team’s three games leading up to the championship contest, Barragan was downright dominant, allowing just six hits and zero earned runs while striking out 22 in 18 innings.
Dickens had two doubles against the Lightning Elite, and Sophia Verdegaal and Marissa Angulo combined for four hits and three RBIs in the win over the Storm Armento.
Barragan said he can’t recall the last time a 12-and-under team from Hollister won the ASA NorCals. He credited the players and also thanked the Hollister Heat for letting the Blackjacks use their field to practice.
The Blackjacks were battle-tested entering NorCals, having traveled to cities such as Huntington Beach, Manteca and Reno for tournaments. Three weeks ago, they lost to Reno 2-1 in the championship game of the Reno tournament.
“I saw a look of fear on our kids’ faces before that game, and I saw the same look on their faces before playing the Smackers,” Barragan said. “I told them to get rid of that look and simply to compete and limit the mental mistakes. As soon as we won, I told the girls they wanted it more than the other team.”
The scared looks morphed into faces of determination, resulting in a prestigious title for the Blackjacks. In addition to the aforementioned players, the roster includes Claire Cagnacci, Bianca Duarte, Jessica Enriquez, Juliza Garcia, Kaitlyn Iller, Annika Salazar and Nina Taylor.

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