Madeline Bermudez is up to bat. Photo by Michael Koteles
Madeline Bermudez is up to bat. Photo by Michael Koteles

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Michael Koteles

The Baler girls softball team who rank No. 1 in the state became NorCal champions after a win in a nine-inning pitchers’ duel over the St. Francis Lancers with a final score of 1-0. 

The NorCal Regional title game was hosted by Hollister High School at Ray Barragan Stadium on June 3. This is the Balers’ first NorCal title in the softball program’s history. 

St. Francis is no stranger to the Balers, as the non-league rivals had played three games against each other. In the first game the Balers fell 10-2 but got their revenge in the Central Coast Section (CCS) Championship on May 27, winning 4-0. 

The NorCal championship was decided on an error in which the St. Francis’ shortstop was unable to catch the ball on a force out on second base for the second out, allowing Baler Dominique Oliveira to score from second base. 

Andrew Barragan, Hollister High’s girls’ softball coach, said, “Winning the championship game versus St. Francis last week, and then winning the first game of the NorCals, I was afraid of the little let down after the championship game.” 

That didn’t happen. Barragan said the girls “buying into the system” helped them in the tournament.

“It was just how they composed themselves,” he said, adding that the rigorous regular season schedule increased the team’s mental toughness. 

Barragan said the team had “one of the toughest schedules in the state of California, and this was nothing for us, this was just another game.” 

Barragan’s pride and excitement from the girl’s performance was obvious following the walk-off win. 

“Oh man, we did this for the girls, the community of Hollister. The community of Hollister really takes this work seriously.” 

Barragan said that the trust the girls had with each other created an unbeatable situation. 

“When we had 11 games in 15 days, that’s where they really became sisters,” he said. “It’s like living together, they spend so much time together. They learn how to trust each other, they learn tendencies, how they feel the ball, how they throw the ball, and that’s how they beat St. Francis.” 

Barragan gave special recognition to graduating senior Sophia Mariottini, who pitched a complete game.

“Sophia,” he said, “I can’t say enough about her.” He said he knew she was a good player after watching her play a few games. 

“I brought her up her freshman year after watching a couple of her games that we did have [in 2020],” he said. “I knew she was going to be someone special.”

Barragan gives her credit for the CCS title in 2020-21, the CCS open division title in 2022-23, and now the Division 1 NorCal championship. 

“She’s a superstar,” Barragan said, “she’s one of the best pitchers to go down in the history of our school. She worked her ass off.” 

Barragan then reflected on his favorite memory from a season of near perfection. 

“Winning that CCS championship,” Barragan said, “that was a big one, that was the biggest of the big, that was the big dogs, there was nothing really else to accomplish after that.” 

Barragan said the NorCal Championship was the icing on the cake.

“If we were to lose in the NorCal’s,” Barragan said, “It would’ve been okay. We worked on our goals to win a CCS title.” 

Barragan said the expectations won’t change after this year though many key players in the team’s defense are moving on. 

“We’re going to miss a big chunk of our defense,” Barragan said, “But, every offensive player is coming back. I expect more production offensively.” 

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