Entering the final day of the Spring Jamboree Tournament in Las Vegas last Saturday, San Benito High coach Andrew Barragan wasn’t sure if his team could win its final two games against Shadow Ridge of Las Vegas and Kennedy of Granada Hills. After all, the Haybalers didn’t have one of their best players in sophomore shortstop and University of North Carolina commit Dominique Monteon, who was nursing a back injury.
However, the Balers showed just how far they’ve come, edging Shadow Ridge 6-5 in the semifinals before capturing the title with an 18-6 victory over Kennedy. San Benito (14-3) went 5-0 in the tournament, knocking off Maranatha of Pasadena on the first day of the tourney and Brawley and Centennial the next day before Saturday’s semifinals and finals. Barragan was ecstatic and proud of the team’s effort and performance.
“After the Brawley game, they realized they could do this,” he said. “In order for us to win this tournament, the girls had to get out of our comfort zone and do things normally I don’t ask them to do. That’s what I’m most proud about—they were willing to adapt and do the things necessary to win.”
In particular, Barragan pointed to ace Amanda Moisa, who went 4-0 and pitched 25 2/3 out of a possible 32 innings. Moisa was at her best in the win over Centennial, conjuring up images of some of her best performances from last season.
“Centennial was supposed to run through us, and Amanda just shut them down,” Barragan said. “They were already talking about facing Shadow Ridge (their crosstown rivals in the semifinals). … What I liked about Amanda is she pitched backward a lot. So if there was a 2-0 count when obviously the hitter is up there to hack, she would throw a change-up down the middle and they’re popping out. Things like that is what wins games.”
Against Centennial, Moisa had everything working. The right-hander worked the corners with pinpoint accuracy, and her off-speed pitches were devastatingly effective.
The outfield trio of Noel Chavarria, Brittnee Rossi and Chloe Cortez was simply spectacular as usual. Cortez went 10 for 16 to lead all hitters, Rossi had a key RBI against Centennial and Chavarria muscled up for three home runs—eclipsing her total from the previous two seasons combined.
“Chavarria was pretty much the MVP of the tournament,” Barragan said.
In addition, just about everyone in the lineup made solid contact throughout the tournament.
“One thing we’ve been preaching is loud outs,” Barragan said. “I don’t care if we’re grounding out or making outs, but I want them to be loud. And that means being disciplined at the plate and picking your pitch. We talk about squaring the ball up, and they responded.”
Cortez, Chavarria, Rossi, Moisa and catcher Amanda Rodriguez made the all-tournament team. Rodriguez changed the outcome of the Centennial game, throwing out two would-be base stealers to squelch any potential rally. Rodriguez also produced some hits at key moments.
A couple of unsung standouts included Rylee Roberson at second base and Alyssa Ito, who played magnificently at shortstop in place of Monteon.
“They both came up with big-time plays,” Barragan said. “Dominique is kind of our rock in the infield, and without her I wasn’t sure what to expect (entering Saturday’s games). But as you can see it was a big team effort. We lose Dominique and we didn’t miss a beat.”
The Balers face even greater competition in this weekend’s NorCal Classic in Tracy. Should the Balers win their opening game on Friday, they could face a powerhouse Clovis team that is ranked ninth in the nation. The field is a Who’s Who of national and state powers—the exact reason why Barragan has his squad playing in Tracy.
“By the time the second half of the league season and playoffs roll around, we’re not going to see anything we haven’t already seen,” he said. “They’ll be prepared for anything.”
If San Benito ends up winning the program’s 11th CCS playoff championship, it will look back to its time in Las Vegas as the start of something special.
“It was a good time all the way around,” Barragan said. “The girls got to play a lot of high quality teams, and off the field they got to see a nice Criss Angel (magician) show. This is one trip they’ll never forget—not only because we won but because of the team bonding.”