In what marked her first game as the varsity softball head coach, Suzette Combs started the Yosemite High Badgers (1-2, 0-0) team off with a bang, defeating the Roosevelt Ruffriders (0-2, 0-0) on Thursday, March 5, by a score of 6-4.
Combs comes to the team with both coaching and player experience and spent last year as the assistant JV coach. Prior to her participation at YHS, Combs competed at the highest levels in softball playing two years for Oregon State University and two years for Portland State University, including participating in the College Softball World Series tournament. Combs gained experience as a coach while coaching at Cathedral City High School in Los Angeles.
Now Combs will look to use her knowledge and personal experiences as a player and coach to elevate the Badgers play in hopes of capturing a long awaited NSL championship.
During last Thursday’s game against Roosevelt, Yosemite junior Amy Whitcomb started off the season with an impressive display of arm strength, pitching six innings while striking out 12 and allowing four runs on only five hits.
Despite her overall performance, Whitcomb got off to a shaky start when the Badgers defense gave up an error in the first inning on a routine bunt. Roosevelt followed up with another bunt, scoring the games first run and giving the Ruffriders an early 1-0 lead. Soon after the Badgers defense, led by shortstop Lynette Combs, daughter of head coach Suzette Combs, and senior Savannah Rich, turned a crucial double play to get Whitcomb and the Badgers out of the inning with minimal damage.
Yosemite got some immediate help from Roosevelt in the bottom of the first inning when the Ruffriders starting pitcher J. Gonzalez gave up three runs on five walks and was relieved after facing just seven batters.
Yosemite scored two more runs in the bottom of the second inning on three hits from Rich, Sarah, Meeks and Maitlyn Lemos, giving the Badgers a 5-1 lead. The run support seemed to be enough for the left-handed Whitcomb as she continued her dominance recording the next nine outs by way of strikeout.
Roosevelt attempted to make things interesting scoring a run in the fifth bringing them within three. The Badgers responded by scoring in the bottom of the fifth making it 6-2. Roosevelt scored two in the sixth to bring the Ruffriders to within two but in the seventh inning Whitcomb showed her experience and composure by getting out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning.
Following the teams first non-league victory the Badgers got right back to work Saturday, March 7, during a three-team round robin between Minarets and Mariposa.
The Badgers lost the first game to Mariposa (4-0, 0-0) by the score of 3-1. The Badgers were their own worst enemy producing three errors and giving the Grizzlies the advantage. Despite struggling with her command throughout the game, Whitcomb managed to hold the Grizzlies to three runs on three hits while walking six. Combs recorded the Badgers loan RBI in the first inning with a combination of a lead-off single by Whitcomb, a wild pitch and two fielder’s choices. Mariposa‘s three runs came in the fifth inning off a single, two walks and two errors in the inning. Mariposa’s pitching held on from there as the Lady Badgers were unable to produce any more run support. Whitcomb finished the game with six strikeouts and added some offense going 3-3 with a double.
Yosemite’s woes continued later that day against Minarets who turned in a 10-6 victory against the rival Badgers (see Minarets below for breakdown).
The relativity young team consisting of four juniors, two seniors and eight underclassmen will look to get back on track during the Jackson Tournament held every year at Argonaut High School in Jackson, Ca. Fans will have to wait until April for league play when the Lady Badger will travel to Liberty April 8, to take on the Hawks.
“Things are very promising. We are a very young team, with eight of our players are freshman or sophomore and they are playing very well. We need to get our bats going and just find our defense but as a team we are really strong. We had a few kids play in travel ball during the summer and fall and overall I think we are going to be very strong,” Combs said.
During the three team round robin the JV Badgers, coached by first year coach Tami Franke, defeated Mariposa 13-10 in a nail biting win. Michaela Gray on the mound pitching 7 innings and striking out the final batter to seal the Badgers victory. Left fielder, Alyssa Alisson made two game saving catches that were hit to deep left field. Caitlyn Burns, Victoria Ginn, Sam Kemper and Mia Bullock all had doubles and drove in runs to help to Badger overcome the Grizzlies.
The JV Badgers Softball team then defeated Minarets 17-5 continuing their winning ways. The bats were hot and the whole team came together and played an outstanding game behind another gutsy performance by Michaela Gray on the mound. Up next for the JV Badgers will be the Madera South Tournament on March 13 and 14 at Madera South High School on Pecan Ave. in Madera.
Mountain softball was at it's finest Saturday as three mountain teams, Mariposa, YHS and Minarets (1-2, 0-0) all took part in the three team round robin. The Mariposa Grizzles came out on top recording wins against YHS and Minarets but the game most came to watch was the Badgers vs the Mustangs, and they were not disappointed.
Ginny Taylor is the Mustangs new Varsity coach, Taylor takes over the program after coaching JV last season, former Varsity coach Dee Kamalani also has returned to the coaching staff. The Mustangs also have a young team, featuring 3 seniors, one of which starts, as YHS the Mustangs are primarily made up of juniors, with two sophomores, Samantha Waag and Sarah Parker earning roster spots on Varsity.
The Badgers went with a slower pitcher to start the game and Badgers head coach Suzzette Combs’ strategy worked to perfection as the Mustangs struggled adjusting, hitting slow rollers to the infield time and time again. Minarets took a 1-0 lead which held up until the fourth inning when the Badgers erupted for three runs to take a 3-1 lead going into the fifth inning. Kamalani held YHS in check most of the game but three errors allowed the Badgers to take the lead.
The Mustangs answered back as Combs switched out pitchers and the Mustangs went to the small ball game, dropping bunt after bunt to perfection for infield hits. After loading the bases the Mustangs broke it open with a back to back hits from Kamalani and Patricia Thomasian to the outfield to clear the bases and climb back into the game.
Leading 4-3 the Mustang’s Bailey Avina drove one to the fence to also score two. Minarets went on to score six more runs and take a commanding 10-3 lead. YHS put three more runs on the board as the Mustangs traded outs for runs to claim bragging rights until next season for a 10-6 win.
Despite defeating Yosemite, the Mustangs were unable to carry over the momentum against Mariposa losing 10-0 in a game that was called in the fifth due to the league’s 10-run rule. Leah Lafata pitched all five innings for Mariposa.
It was the first time the three schools have played together in the round robin format and plans are in the works to bring Sierra High into the fold for next year as the teams work on keeping contacts closer to home and playing games that are much more meaningful for the players and fans.
The Mustangs dropped another tough one March 9, to the Roosevelt losing 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Mustangs played Farmersville March 10, and then take part in the Madera South Tournament March 13-14.