good times local news media events catalyst santa cruz california metro silicon valley news local events san jose weekly pajaronian watsonville local newspaper, news events pajaro valley california gilroy dispatch local news events garlic festival santa cruz media events local california weekly king city rustler newspaper media local events car sales buy new car media
48.3 F
English English Spanish Spanish
March 21, 2023

Hollister High softball poised for special season

Andrew Barragan is in his eighth season as the Hollister High softball coach, and he said this year’s team could be the best one yet. 

“This is definitely the most balanced team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Barragan said. “Pitching, hitting, defense, the balance. All the way around one through nine [in the lineup] we’re strong. But that depth on the bench, I can run any of the girls out there and they can play at a high level. This is going to be a special season. I feel good about this one. If we’re going to make a run deep into CCS and Nor-Cals, it’ll be this team right here.”

The Haybalers entered the week 3-1, with their only defeat coming to a powerful Foothill of Santa Ana team that is ranked No. 16 in California. Should Hollister reach its lofty goals of winning league, CCS and NorCal titles, Sophia Mariottini will have a lot to do with that. 

Barragan said the senior right-handed ace is ready to enter among the upper-echelon of pitchers in the Central Coast Section, having worked diligently on her off-speed stuff during the travel ball season. 

“That off-speed looks a lot better than it has the previous three years,” Barragan said. “If she’s not the Pitcher of the Year in the Gabilan [Division], I’d be very surprised and disappointed because she’s just that caliber. I expect her to be the top pitcher—bottom line. Her stuff is that good.” 

The Balers have few if any holes in the lineup, and the top of the order is particularly dangerous with junior Madeline Bermudez in the leadoff spot. If the Cal Poly-commit reaches base, good things happen. 

“She’s a force to be reckoned with,” Barragan said. “If she’s on first base, it’s automatic for her taking off on the first or second pitch. That’s just the way she rolls and the way we roll.”

Translation: Hollister has speed and plenty of it. That not only plays out on the basepaths but on defense, where the left fielder Bermudez tracks down balls and has a tremendous arm to throw out runners trying to advance an extra base. 

“Maddie does some magical things out there,” Barragan said. 

Sophomore center fielder Grace Peffley also steals a lot of bases, hits in the No. 2 spot and has emerged as one of the team’s captains.

“She’s one of the few girls that have made captain as a sophomore,” Barragan said. “She’s just that motivating as an underclassmen. She makes everyone that much better, is always positive and has really stepped up. Grace can slap [hit] but also has got a lot of power from the left side. She’s one of the quickest girls, can lay a bunt down, power slap. She can do it all at the dish.”

In junior shortstop Mia Philips, Hollister has its first Pac-12 commit in several years, if not longer. Philips, the No. 3 hitter, has verbaled to Cal Berkeley and Barragan said she’s one of the most dynamic infielders he’s ever come across. 

“Mia is fast, lightning quick, an MVP candidate,” he said. “She’s something special and hands down the best defensive player we have. This year I expect some huge things from her. She’s an RBI machine.”

Cleanup hitter and first baseman Taylor Faga happens to be a freshman and comes with enormous expectations. Barragan has known Faga since she was a fifth grader, around the time she first came to Barragan’s Blackjacks hitting facility in downtown. 

Faga hit a walk-off home run to finish off an 11-1 mercy-rule victory over Santa Teresa in the season-opener, and reached base in all four plate appearances in a 7-2 win over Clovis on March 4. 

“She’s one of the purest hitters I’ve seen coming through the system in a long time,” Barragan said. “The way the ball comes off her bat, you can’t believe she’s freaking 14 years old. I’ve never seen a player with the power she has to the opposite field.”

Barragan said Faga’s humble mindset and work ethic are the keys to her success. Faga is already on the radar of the power conference schools, and Barragan noted Faga rides her bike every single morning to Blackjacks to take BP before school starts. 

“I’ve never had that,” Barragan said. “I just gave her the combo, tell her to shut the lights off when she’s done and she treats it like it’s her second house.”

Second baseman Emma Gutierrez is coming off a solid season and has taken her hitting to another level. 

“She’s really stepped up her game and has matured at the plate,” Barragan said. “You can tell she’s more patient and she’s going to be an RBI machine for us.”

Catcher Dominique Oliveira has also elevated her game, is one of the team captains—Mariottini and Philips are the others—and makes all the plays behind the dish. 

“Hands down one of the best defensive catchers in the league, if not the section,” Barragan said. “She’s quick on her feet, has a good arm and we’re fortunate to have her as our backstop.”

Hannah Sanchez, Kyla Hignel, Laila Rueda, Avery Chavez, Ashlee Io and Lauryn McShane will be key contributors as well. McShane has been carrying a hot bat of late, with a bases-clearing double in the Clovis game and two of the team’s five hits against Foothill.

Rueda is part of an outfield along with Bermudez and Peffley that Barragan said rivals the fantastic Brit Rossi-Noel Chavarria-Chloe Cortez combination four years ago.

Senior pitcher Sophia Mariottini returns as the ace in the circle for the Balers this season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Taylor Faga blasts a walk-off home run in an 11-1 mercy-rule victory over Santa Teresa. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]

Please leave a comment


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here