By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Western Athletic Conference edges out Central California Conference in softball
Bulldog Rayohna Sagapolu contributed at pitcher, and on offense and defense. Sagapolu collected the game-winning hit. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Central Valley's Nayeli Pelayo, and Ceres High's Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal, Rayohna Sagapolu, Ariel Knights and Mackenzie Veuve showcased their talent in the First Annual Paul Leonardo Memorial Western Athletic Conference vs. Central California Conference All-Star Game on Wednesday in Livingston.

Bates, O'Neal, Sagapolu, Knights, Veuve and Pelayo suited up for WAC team, which earned a hard-fought 7-6 victory over the CCC.

"I'm not going to lie," said Sagapolu, who collected a two-run walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning. "I felt pressure. But I love being in those situations. You just try to execute. That's what makes you an all-star."

The contest was staged in front of a large crowd.

There were multiple lead changes.

"We wanted to have fun," Sagapolu said. "Winning was a bonus."

Bates crushed a two-run homer over the right-field fence and Sagapolu collected an RBI single as the WAC turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.

"It was good contact," Bates said while talking about her at-bat. "I was just hoping for a double."

The WAC fell behind 6-5 in the top of the sixth inning.

Sagapolu played the role of hero. Her clutch hit scored Gio Rodoni (Pacheco) and pinch-runner McKenzie Schumacher (El Capitan). Schumacher replaced O'Neal, who reached base on a single.

"I just ran around the bases," Rayohna said. "I didn't comprehend what happened until my teammates came out of the dugout and onto the field. It was cool."

"It was so awesome for her to come up big in that situation," Bates said. "I wasn't surprised. She's an awesome hitter."

"I was proud it was one of our girls that got that hit," Knights said. "That just shows that Ceres made an impact in the game. The outcome could have been different if we weren't there."

Bates was named one of the game's MVPs.

She received a $500 scholarship.

"It's a great feeling," Nicole said. "I'm really happy."

Bates batted 2-for-2 from the plate with one homer, one triple and one walk.

She played shortstop in the first, second, third and eighth innings, and second base in the seventh on defense. Bates fielded three groundballs.

Knights grounded out twice on offense.

She logged playing time at third base in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings.

"It was a cool experience," Ariel said.

Sagapolu collected three hits and knocked in three runs.
Rayohna played in the outfield in the first, second, third and ninth innings, and contributed at pitcher in the sixth and seventh.
O'Neal singled and walked once in two at-bats. She played catcher in the first, second, third, seventh and ninth innings.

"It was a great experience," Mahlena said. "I'm really glad we got to represent Ceres High.

Veuve was the WAC's third baseman during the first, second, third and ninth innings.

Livingston coach Joe Leonardo created the all-star game in honor of his brother, who was a longtime coach.

The WAC and CCC rosters were made up of players that earned all-conference accolades during the regular season. "It was a lot of fun playing with people we've competed against all year," Bates said. "Everybody was so talented."

Ceres High enjoyed a memorable 2015 season, compiling a 22-9 overall record, tying for fifth place in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff tournament and capturing its second consecutive WAC crown.

Central Valley posted an 0-12 record in conference play.

Bates won the WAC MVP award.

O'Neal and Sagapolu both earned first-team all-conference honors.

Knights, Veuve and Pelayo were second-team picks.

Turlock Journal sports reporter Eddie Ruiz contributed to this report.