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CV, CHS softball strive for conference titles, playoff berths
Gabriela Delatorre and Jannet Valencia
Central Valley’s softball program returns six players from last year’s CCC championship team, including Gabriela Delatorre and Jannet Valencia. - photo by Dale Butler

Central Valley’s softball program reached new heights under first-year head coach Jimmy Bates’ guidance last spring. Led by longtime leader Mike Corsaut, Ceres High continued its run of success in 2023.

The Hawks and Bulldogs both expect to compete at a high level this season.

“I believe this team is talented enough to win league and make a run in the playoffs,” Corsaut said. “But the girls have to believe in themselves and execute.”

“Last year’s team changed the culture within Central Valley softball,” Bates stated. “The main thing is they believed in each other. They were committed to each other. As this year’s team gets more experience and more reps in practices and games, the sky is the limit.”

Central Valley welcomes back six players from last year’s team, including Priscilla Hamidat (Sr.), Victoria Molina (Sr.), Jannet Valencia (Sr.), Alicia Espinoza (So.), Gabriela Delatorre (So.) and Payton McConnell (So.).

The Hawks have seven newcomers: Destiny Herrera (Jr.), Abigail Krauss (So.), Alayah Villa (So.), Valerie Espinoza (Fr.), Reylena Herrera (Fr.), Valerie Padilla (Fr.) and Brooklyn Steeley (Fr.), 

Soriah Corona, Janessa Godinez, Victoria Lloyd, Micaela Martinez and Allie Peterman were all lost to graduation.

“This is a super young group,” Bates said. “They have some big shoes to fill in upholding the competitive, winning culture.”

“Each team is unique,” he added. “It’s kind of like a puzzle. You have to find a way to put the pieces in the right spots. It’s always a new challenge.”

Valencia, Delatorre and Hamidat were all rewarded during the Central California Conference year-end head coaches’ meeting a year ago.

Valencia, a shortstop, was named to the CCC First Team.

She batted .436 with six doubles, 19 RBIs, 33 runs and 25 stolen bases.

Delatorre and Hamidat were both named to the CCC Second Team.

Delatorre, a first baseman, batted .392 with six homers, two triples, five doubles, 28 RBIs, 30 runs and 13 stolen bases.

She hit four of her home runs during conference play.

Hamidat, an outfielder, batted .391 with one triple, four doubles, 26 RBIs and eight runs.

“There’s not an easy out all the way through the order,” said Bates.

Valencia and Hamidat are team leaders.

“They’re both great representatives of our program,” Bates said. “Jannet is more vocal with her leadership. She does things defensively that stretch the imagination. Priscilla leads by example.”

Ceres High welcomes back eight players from a season ago, including Isabela Giraldes (Sr.), Kylie Bond (Jr.), Alizae Cole (Jr.), Ava Montesdeoca (Jr.), Nani Sagapolu (Jr.), Illianna Saldana (Jr.), Maddie Schultz (Jr.), Bella Bravo (So.). 

The Bulldogs have six newcomers: Calista Mann (Jr.), Tatiana Ortiz (Jr.), Makaela Brown (So.), Elizabeth Figueroa (So.), Gabriela Ortiz (So.) and Amaia Pritchett (So.).

Mann, Brown, Figueroa, Pritchett, Tatiana Ortiz and Gabriela Ortiz won the Western Athletic Conference championship together at the junior-varsity level.

Tatum George, Natalie Gomes, Kareli Hernandez, Emma Johnson and Sehren Martinez were all lost to graduation.

“I talk to them about it (the history of Ceres High’s softball program),” Corsaut said. “There is a lot of pressure to keep winning. There’s always a big target on our back.”

Montesdeoca, Cole, Sagapolu and Bond all garnered Western Athletic Conference recognition this past season.

Montesdeoca and Cole were named to the WAC First Team.

Montesdeoca, a second baseman, batted .605 with three homers, triples doubles, 10 doubles, 24 RBIs, 41 runs and 17 stolen bases.

She had an on-base percentage of .644.

Cole contributed at pitcher and first base and in the outfield.

She batted .414 with two homers, three triples, six doubles, 31 RBIs, 27 runs and 10 stolen bases.

She compiled a 6-5 record in the circle with a 2.33 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 57 innings.

Sagapolu and Bond were selected to the WAC Second Team.

Sagapolu, a third baseman, batted .373 with one triple, four doubles, 17 RBIs and 17 runs.

Bond posted a 9-2 record with a 3.56 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 742/3 innings at pitcher.

Giraldes, Montesdeoca, Cole and Bond are team leaders.

Montesdeoca earned national recognition for her production on the field as a sophomore.

She was named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American Second Team selection.

“They’re experienced,” Corsaut said. “They play the game the right way. They’re competitors. They don’t’ like to lose.”

The Hawks enjoyed their best season to date in 2023.

The Bulldogs maintained their tradition of excellence.

Central Valley compiled a program-best 19-4 overall record.

The Hawks claimed their first-ever league championship. Central Valley won the CCC title outright with a near-perfect 11-1 record.

The Hawks participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time.

Central Valley won a team-record seven straight games prior to suffering an 8-3 loss to Tracy in the opening round of the Division-I postseason tournament.

Bates was voted CCC Coach of the Year.

“I’m really thankful,” he said. “I got lucky I walked into a gold mine with all the talent. Belief carried us into our first playoff appearance.”

Central Valley’s 2024 league schedule includes home-and-away games against Patterson, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, Golden Valley and El Capitan.

“With having the record we had last year, we have a target on our back,” said Bates. “We have to make sure we do everything we can to put the pressure on other teams. We have to compete every pitch.”

Ceres High amassed a 15-8 overall record, finished in a three-way tie for first place in the WAC (11-3) and qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Bulldogs have won seven league titles in the past 10 years.

Fourteenth-seeded Ceres High cut a six-run deficit to two in the final inning before losing 6-4 to third-seeded St. Mary’s in the first round of the Division-II playoffs.

Ceres High’s 2024 conference schedule includes home-and-away games against Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Los Banos, Pacheco, Lathrop and Mountain House.

“A lot of the games are going to be competitive,” commented Corsaut. “We have some pretty good pitchers in our league. I’d be surprised if we didn’t win league. But you have to go out, compete and give it your best every day.”

The Hawks and Bulldogs both have challenging preseason schedules.

“I scheduled league champions and playoff teams to make us a better team,” noted Corsaut. 

“That’s going to pay off when we get into our league schedule,” Bates added.

Ava Montesdeoca, Alizae Cole
Ava Montesdeoca, Alizae Cole and Ceres High’s softball team have high hopes for the 2024 season. The Bulldogs have won seven league titles in the past 10 years. - photo by Dale Butler