Softball: Balers look to continue dynasty

Balers senior Callee Heen is having one of the greatest offensive seasons in school history.

A critical win over Notre Dame-Salinas on May 5 put the San Benito High softball team in control of its own destiny. The result—a 4-0 victory—meant they needed to beat Monterey and Christopher in the final week of the regular season to clinch an outright Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship.
And that’s exactly what the Balers did. In the process, they earned the top seed in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs. San Benito (23-3) plays No. 9 Piedmont Hills (16-8) at the Salinas Sports Complex on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Balers beat Piedmont Hills 12-1 in the very first game of the season. First-year San Benito coach Andrew Barragan said it was nice the team was able to clinch the league outright, which it didn’t do last season. Now the Balers are ready to make a run at winning their 10th section title in the last 11 years.
“The way this team is playing, anything is possible,” Barragan said. “We’re certainly not going to look past Piedmont Hills, because they are a deserving team. In the case of Piedmont Hills, they might be a totally different team than the one we saw months ago.”
Then again, the Balers are improved as well. Sophomore pitcher Amanda Moisa, who is in first year on the varsity, has gained more experience as the season has gone along. The San Benito bats are as potent as ever, with speedy leadoff hitter Brittnee Rossi and sluggers Callee Heen and Suzy Brookshire flat-out raking as usual.
If the Balers win their first game as expected, a potential matchup with North Salinas looms. Make no mistake about it: the team would be particularly excited to see North Salinas, which dealt the Balers their only league loss of the season on April 26, a 5-4 decision.
North Salinas was plenty excited afterward, and with good reason. Any time a team other than Notre Dame-Salinas beats the Balers, it’s a big deal. But having to watch North Salinas celebrate was extra painful.
“In the back of your mind, you’re watching the bracket to see who you have to get through to get to the championship game,” Barragan said.
San Benito was scheduled to get former Notre Dame-Salinas and Ohio State University standout Kim Reeder throw live practice on Tuesday, and former Balers standout Paige Miguel expected to come in a day or two later.
“The girls are excited,” Barragan said. “They’ll be well prepared after Kim and Paige come in.”
Barragan said the 4-0 win over Notre Dame was a huge confidence-booster for the team, as it was coming off a 6-2 loss to Pioneer, the top-ranked team in the section. However, Moisa mowed down the Spirits, throwing a complete-game, five-hitter with seven strikeouts and just one walk.
Utilizing a curveball and screwball, the sophomore right-hander overpowered the Notre Dame lineup with machine-like efficiency.
“Two of the five hits Amanda gave up were dinkers, Texas-leaguers,” Barragan said. “I’m really proud of Amanda because she battled to the limit. This is her first year of pitching at the varsity level, and she’s had her growing pains. But she’s responded well to everything I’ve said to her.”
If Moisa is on her game, the Balers will be tough to beat. That’s because they already have one of the most prolific lineups in the section. Against Notre Dame, Barragan switched up the batting order, moving Division I-signees Callee Heen and Suzy Brookshire both one spot up in the order.
Heen and Brookshire follow Rossi, the leadoff hitter extraordinaire who is having a fantastic season and is one of the fastest players in the section. Heen has been particularly hot of late, as she connected on a home run against Pioneer’s Holly Azevedo, who has accepted a scholarship to play at UCLA.
“Callee is looking for that mistake pitch,” Barragan said. “Because everyone knows about her, Callee might only get one good pitch to hit an at-bat. She’s been exploiting that mistake pitch very well.”
Heen’s shot off Azevedo was impressive, considering the arsenal of pitches the UCLA-bound pitcher has at her disposal. The Balers also faced a top-talent pitcher when they played Central High of Fresno in early April, a 4-3 defeat. Barragan said facing the likes of Azevedo and the Central pitcher who has signed with Boise State has been the perfect preparation for the playoffs.
“You’ve got Azevedo who is throwing 65 mph along with a riseball that moves five feet,” Barragan said. “We’re not going to see anyone else more special than that.”
The Balers’ performance against Notre Dame starter Vanessa Gonzalez—they finished with nine hits—was even more impressive considering Gonzalez was coming off a no-hitter against Christopher and entered the game with a 22 scoreless inning streak.
“The team that played against Notre Dame, I’ll put that team up against anybody,” Barragan said. “If we limit the mistakes, there’s no stopping us in CCS.”

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