After having an assistant coach let go (Pete Reardon), and its head coach Ginny Taylor resigning just the day before, the Minarets High School softball team (3-10, 0-1 West Sequoia League) came together on its home field to beat Yosemite (6-8) 11-4 April 5.
Taylor and her staff took the Mustangs to the semifinals of sectional play last season, and having lost only one starter, was expected to compete for a league title this season. Starting the season minus key players due to the basketball team’s extended play in playoffs, the Mustangs were playing with one hand behind their back.
Head coach Taylor met with Minarets principal Daniel Ching and athletic directors Jay Smoljian and Karra Zamora, then resigned from the team along with her new coach Angela Mendoza on Monday April 4, citing health concerns a day before the game against Yosemite. The following day, pitcher Baylee Avina was released from the team for conduct detrimental to the team. It was a Minarets team in turmoil to say the least.
Dee Kamalani, a long time respected coach who came to Minarets from Sierra, took over head coaching duties for the Mustangs. As last year’s assistant, Kamalani has coached the Mustangs three of the past four seasons and brings consistency back to a program that has lost all its coaching staff.
Smoljian and head baseball coach Jesse Darrah stepped in to coach the team in the win over the Badgers.
Yosemite was ahead 3-1 going into the fifth inning, when the Mustangs were aided by some Badger errors. Delaney Reardon’s single scored two in the bottom of the fifth, following a double by Kalea Kamalani to give the Mustangs a 4-3 lead. Aurora Middleton followed with an RBI single to score Patricia Thomasian to give the Mustangs a 6-3 lead after five innings.
Yosemite answered in the top of the sixth with a run to cut the lead to 6-4, but that’s as close as the Badgers would get as Minarets erupted for another five runs to close out the game.
Middleton was 3-for-4 on the game with two RBIs. For Yosemite, Caitlyn Burns went 2-for-3, and freshman Angelina McBride went 2-for-4.
After the Minarets game, the Badgers rebounded with a 12-1 win over Laton as Lynette Combs, Katie Lemos, Kylie Seals, and Amy Chenot combined for nine hits in 14 at bats.
“The team came back strong after the loss to Minarets ... sometimes it takes a wake up call to get things going into the next game,” Yosemite Coach Dave Maynez said. “I am proud of how the girls responded. We are heading into league play and all I ask of my players is to do the best they can to compete.”
The Badgers opened league play Tuesday against Liberty-Madera Ranchos, the No. 1 team in D-III in the Central Section. Results were not available at press time.
Prior to the Yosemite game, Minarets pitcher Baylee Avina was rocked early in a 7-1 loss to Immanuel and an 18-1 loss to Sunnyside, which put the Mustangs pitcher on the shelf due to a nagging hip injury.
The Mustangs went with their only other pitcher and lost to Mariposa 20-0 March 1. Following that game Taylor released assistant coach Reardon and brought in another coach. Taylor then pulled the team out of the Madera Invitational Tournament and the Orosi Invitational, citing a lack of position players.
The Hoover Patriots (0-9) visited Minarets March 18 - just what the Mustangs needed to build some confidence, with the team at full strength for the first time. .
Kalea Kamalani was on the mound and the Mustangs won 20-9, the first win of the season. The Mustangs then traveled to Tulare Union for a double header March 31, traveling to Arroyo Grande for tournament play. The Mustangs were handily swept, losing 18-2 and 21-1.
The April 1 and 2 Arroyo Grande tournament featured D-I and D-II schools including Bullard, Buchanan, and Clovis as well as small schools. The Mustangs played host Arroyo Grande (11-5) in their first game, losing 18-0. It its second game against the Sutter Huskies (12-4), the Mustangs received another beating with a 25-0 loss. The team also lost to D-1 Argonaut 16-0.
Game four for the battered and bruised Mustangs was a 12-1 victory against Tranquillity.
Minarets opened league play against an old rival, Caruthers, on April 7. The Blue Raiders, expected to battle with Riverdale for the title, dominated the Mustangs, taking full advantage on the bases as they stole 12 bags on the way to a 11-0 win, while the Mustangs could manage just one hit in the game.
The Mustangs host Parlier April 14.