It was a heartbreaking end to the season for the San Benito High softball team, which suffered a 5-4 loss to league rival Watsonville last in the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals. The Wildcatz scored the game-winning run with one out in the bottom of the seven inning to seal the Balers’ fate.
“That was a hard loss,” Haybalers coach Andrew Barragan said. “Because we got up early against a very good pitcher but couldn’t hold it. The seniors took it really hard. They got a taste last year of losing in the (CCS) championship game (to Gilroy), and they wanted this one bad.”
San Benito jumped on Watsonville pitcher and Division I commit Jessica Rodriguez, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. Gia Felice and Drew Barragan produced singles before Dominique Monteon blasted a three-run home run to center field.
“We actually hit Jessica pretty good,” Barragan said. “But they got three in the bottom of the first and it was a whole new ballgame.”
Drew Barragan accounted for the team’s final run with a solo home run in the fifth inning, her third home run in as many games.
“Three home runs in three playoff games, I haven’t seen that in a while,” Andrew Barragan said. “I wasn’t expecting her to hit the way she did for the whole season. Overall, she had the highest average on the team and the most hits. It’s incredible the way she handled herself (coming here as a Monte Vista Christian-transfer).”
The Balers, who last won a CCS title in 2016, will graduate several key players, including Monteon, Amber Rodriguez and Alyssa Ito—three Division I signees. However, as is the case in most years, San Benito looks to reload instead of rebuild. The Balers are projected to return Drew Barragan and Julia Woeste, and the improvement they make as pitchers will be the determining factors in the team’s success in 2020.
“I think next year our pitching will be incredible,” Barragan said.
Simply put, the Balers have lacked a truly dominant ace the last couple of years, and it’s no coincidence they haven’t won a section championship in that span. If Barragan or Woeste can develop into a bona-fide shutdown pitcher, San Benito will have the goods to make a legitimate championship run next season. That’s because plenty of solid hitters and position players return, including a terrific freshmen class that should be even better as sophomores.
Felice provided a potent presence at the leadoff spot, and had a high on-base percentage. Fellow freshmen Gianna Perez, Angelic Diaz, Seryna Esparza and Shanelle Cavazos all had an impact at some point in the season. Perez was the backup catcher to Rodriguez, and possesses a srong arm.
“We expect some big things from her and all of them next year,” Andrew Barragan said.
Diaz can play the outfield or infield, Cavazos played first and third base and Esparza first base and right field.
“I’m glad the freshmen got to see that CCS championship type run,” Barragan said. “I assured them next year we’ll be back here again because the freshmen class will be that much better. All of those freshmen play high caliber travel ball, so they’ll be ready to rock and roll next season.”
San Benito also returns third baseman Kaiya Dickens, who will be a junior next season. Barragan said he was proud of Dickens for turning things around after starting the season 0-for-12.
“She nailed it down the second half of the season,” he said. “I’m proud of the way she battled and how the entire team battled.”
Dickens, Monteon, Barragan and Ariel Mendez—another key senior—combined for eight of the team’s 10 hits against Watsonville. Barragan was pleased in how the players continued to grind through practices and competed in games.
“We battled and had a good run,” he said. “We’ll meet to turn everything in and go over everything. I’ll talk with them individually to see how the season went and what I need them to work on over the summer and the expectations they’ll have to work hard and come back stronger next season.”