An outstanding senior season has Hollister High ace Sophia Mariottini poised to win PCAL Gabilan Division Pitcher of the Year honors. File photo.

Longtime Hollister High softball coach Andrew Barragan fully expects the Haybalers to receive a No. 2 or 3 seed in the upcoming Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs. 

That’s key because assuming St. Francis has the top seed locked up, the Haybalers would be slotted on the opposite side of the bracket from the defending Open Division and CIF NorCal Division I champion.

That’s not to say Barragan isn’t relishing a rematch with St. Francis—he’s just being refreshingly honest in saying he would rather see the Lancers at the very end if he had his choice.  

“We don’t want the No. 4, 5 or 8 seed; I’d rather wait [to play St. Francis] in the championship game,” Barragan said. “At this point, we’re jockeying for the No. 2 seed. Points-wise, it looks like we’ll get the No. 2 or 3 seed.”

Hollister has played the section’s consensus top two teams—St. Francis and Mitty—with different outcomes. The Balers lost to St. Francis 10-2 on March 25 and were edged by Mitty, 3-2, on May 1. Hollister had Mitty on the ropes, leading 2-0 and an out away from taking that advantage into the sixth inning.

However, Barragan said a mental mistake led to Mitty scoring all three of its runs with two outs in the fifth. 

“We had it,” Barragan said. “The upside is we did a lot better than last year when they beat us 14-0. We know we can beat Mitty now.”

Especially if Sophia Mariottini pitches the way she did against Mitty. The senior right-hander allowed six hits and struck out six in a complete-game performance. 

“She shut Mitty down and held them in check for the first 4 ⅔ innings,” Barragan said. “They got a couple of little flares, but by no means did they square anything up on her. She was dialed in, had hitters off-balance and pitched a great game. I liked the way she took command out there.

“It was a tough game to watch but easy game to call for Sophie because she was just dialed in and every pitch was working that game. We know if we play Mitty or St. Francis again, we have to be mistake free and limit the mental mistakes.”

Hollister finished the regular-season 24-3 overall, including a perfect 14-0 mark in Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan Division. It was one of the more dominant league championship runs in its illustrious history. 

Although the 2016 team also finished the regular-season 24-3 – Barragan’s first as head coach – he said this year’s team faced tougher competition. 

“The schedule that year compared to this year is just night and day,” he said. 

Indeed, the Balers have quite the resume with a top strength of schedule, with two wins over perennial CCS power Notre Dame-Salinas and an impressive non-league victory over Central High-Fresno, which entered the week 22-5 and ranked No. 16 in the state by Max Preps. 

Barragan was plenty confident entering last year’s postseason before the team got mercy-ruled by Mitty in the Open Division quarterfinal. He knows the team has to get it done this time around and the added experience will prove to be the difference. 

“The whole vibe of the team, they’re loose and they just go out and have fun,” he said. “This is a special team. I told you at the beginning of the season it would be and it is.”

Senior ace Sophia Mariottini has been lights-out at times and Barragan said if she pitches like she did against Mitty, the Balers will be in a good position to make the Open final. Mariottini pitched a complete-game, six-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 5-0 win over Monterey on May 5, a great result for the team considering it squeaked by Monterey the first time around, 9-7, on April 3. 

Madeline Bermudez, Grace Peffley and Taylor Faga lead the team in batting average and on-base percentage, and Mia Philips, Hannah Sanchez, Lauryn McShane, Dom Oliveira and Emma Gutierrez have also been potent offensively. 

Barragan has never had a team so dangerous on the basepaths, as Bermudez (31), Peffley (27) and Philips (24) have combined for 82 of Hollister’s 144 stolen bases. 

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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