A new era for YHS baseball and softball

Senior Yosemite catcher Katie Thompson celebrates with teammates after blasting a three-run home run over the left center field wall in the bottom of the third inning during a 17-0 win over Minarets Feb. 28. That was the first game of the season for both schools.
Senior Yosemite catcher Katie Thompson celebrates with teammates after blasting a three-run home run over the left center field wall in the bottom of the third inning during a 17-0 win over Minarets Feb. 28. That was the first game of the season for both schools. Sierra Star

Yosemite varsity baseball Head Coach JD Burnett and his team are off to a strong start, winning all four games to win the Strathmore Tournament held Feb. 27 - March 4.

The Badgers won against Granite Hill 10-4 on Feb. 27, Riverdale 4-3 Feb. 28, Kennedy 13-3 March 3, and Granite Hills again 12-2 on March 4.

Burnett said with 10 returning players, including four seniors and three members of the 2016 All North Sequoia League first team (junior Evan Prater and sophomores Tyler Matyshock and Jaeden Pierce), his group is more experienced and has a good shot of winning the NSL in 2017.

“Last year we were really young, so we’re playing with more confidence,” Burnett said. “We’re a year older, we’ve got that experience, and it’s going well.”

Burnett said his team’s biggest strength is in its pitching. One returning player might be a key part of that.

Senior catcher Brendon Gillaspy would be a four-year varsity starter had he not sat out last season with a shoulder injury. He’s back this season and said he was pumped up to catch for Burgeno, Prater, Matyshock and Pierce.

“We all have great chemistry,” Gillaspy said. “Before each game we talk about our pitches and what we’re going to do with each hitter.”

Gillaspy, a catcher since he was 6 years old, added the team’s attitude feels new and improved this season.

“The way we’ve been coached has been stepped up a lot,” Gillaspy said. “We’re doing more serious work on the fundamentals than we ever did in the past. But teamwork is the key, and we’re working together really well.”

While the team has allowed a total of 12 runs in four games, they scored 39 of their own, marking a solid start to the season.

Junior Austin Burgeno threw a no-hitter against Kennedy on March 3. He is 2-0 as a pitcher with a 1.36 ERA and through those four tournament games, he went 6 of 10 at the plate with three triples, a double, two stolen bases, and 7 RBIs. That earned him recognition as the Strathmore Tournament’s MVP.

“We’ll win league and Valley,” Burgeno said with a smile. “We’ve got better players and better people behind us on defense this year. It’s about attitude, hitting, and defense, and we’ve got all of that.”

The team plays at home at 4 p.m. Friday against Roosevelt. League play opens at Liberty on March 16.

Badger baseball schedule

3-10: Roosevelt at YHS

3-14: at Fresno Christian

* 3-16: at Liberty-Madera Ranchos

* 3-20: at Kerman

* 3-23: Sierra at YHS

* 3-27: Chowchilla at YHS

* 3-30: at Washington Union

* 4-3: Liberty at YHS

* 4-6: at Liberty

4-10-4-12: 61st Annual Greater Kiwanis Tournament

* 4-18: at Sierra

* 4-20: Sierra at YHS

* 4-24: at Washington Union

* 4-27: Washington Union at YHS

* 5-1: at Kerman

* 5-4: Kerman at YHS

* 5-8: Chowchilla at YHS

* 5-11: at Chowchilla

Most games begin at 4 p.m. - * Denotes league game

Softball team looks for turnaround season

Last year, players said personality conflicts among teammates kept Yosemite High School’s softball team from earning a single win in the North Sequoia League, as the Badgers struggled to find a rhythm under the direction of new Head Coach Dave Maynez.

This year, players promise things will be different, and had something to tell other NSL teams.

“Don’t expect last year’s team,” said catcher Katie Thompson, one of two seniors on the young team and a three-year varsity starter. “Don’t expect a team like what we had before. We’re a new team, and we’re ready.”

Thompson, on the NSL’s All League second team last year, batted .375 on the season, notched seven RBIs in 21 games, and hit three triples as well as two doubles while scoring 10 runs.

Against Minarets (0-2) to start the season Feb. 28, Thompson’s batting power was on display as she crushed a three-run homerun in the bottom of the third inning on a pitch from Taylor Rousey. The Badgers ended up winning that game 17-0, lost to Livingston 10-9 on March 3, and bested Immanuel 5-0 March 6.

Other batters who contributed to the win against Minarets were Chloe Piper with three hits and two RBIs, McBride, Thompson, Amaya Chenot, and Hannah Gray all with two hits, and freshman Rive Prater with two hits, four runs, and three stolen bases.

Maynez, with more than a decade of coaching experience including at the collegiate level, said strong bats and quick runners will make for an improved Badger softball season.

He said that coaching is about building expectations, and from what he’s seen so far he couldn’t be happier.

“This is a family atmosphere now, and you can see they’re having fun,” Maynez said. “That’s great, and we want that. But when they get the gloves on and we get out in between the lines, it’s all about working hard and getting what’s expected from them.”

Angelina McBride, a sophomore who started against Minarets, allowed just three hits while pitching four innings. She agreed the team has vastly improved.

“Last year we weren’t really a family,” McBride said. “We had some problems. But now I feel the whole team is bonding and because we’re coming together as a family unit, all of us are super happy about the season and we’re all loving playing together.

Stolen bases show off his team’s speed, Maynez said, which will prove important this year.

“The one thing I believe is that we win on the base paths,” Maynez said. “I tell my players we’re looking for two bases, every single time. No matter what happens at the plate, we’re always looking for two. That means getting past the first base, looking and listening to coaches, and reading the ball, so that you’re always thinking about advancing.”

The NSL has several talented teams, Maynez said, including last year’s champion Liberty-Madera Ranchos, who went undefeated and 24-5 on the year compared to Yosemite’s 6-18 record.

But, Maynez said, his team is young, has found its stride, and all his players are getting better every day.

“I am very happy as a coach, even though I nitpick a lot with my players, like how they approach the ball and how they throw.” Maynez said. “But I think they’re a lot better than before, and we’re going to do the best we can this season.”

Yosemite faced Mariposa (1-1) at home Wednesday, with scores unavailable at press time. They were scheduled to play in the Jackson Lions Club Softball Classic March 10 and 11, then face Fresno Christian on the road March 14.

Badger softball schedule

3-10-11: Sonora Tournament

3-14: at Fresno Christian

3-17: Coalinga at YHS

3-21: Roosevelt at YHS

3-22: Laton at YHS

3-24: Sunnyside at YHS

3-28: at McLane

3-30: Riverbank at YHS

* 4-4: at Liberty-Madera Ranchos

* 4-6: Kerman at YHS

* 4-19: at Sierra

* 4-21: at Chowchilla

* 4-25: Washington Union at YHS

* 4-28: Liberty at YHS

* 5-2: at Kerman

* 5-5: Sierra at YHS

* 5-9: Chowchilla at YHS

* 5-12: at Washington Union

Most games begin at 3:30 p.m. - * Denotes league game