Sparks Fly to Top-Third Finish in Roseville

By Andrew Bensch
Sparks Fly to Top-Third Finish in Roseville

While the Sparks didn’t quite reach new heights, the Santa Clara softball squad still finished their season on a high note. Out of 38 teams from throughout California, the Sparks finished in the top-12 at the U-14 Class B Western National Championship tournament in Roseville this past week. First year Head Coach Vanessa Montez was pleased with how her squad performed in the summer’s final tournament.

“It went well, we could have played a little bit better, but overall I’m proud of what we accomplished. Placing top-12 out of 38 teams is amazing.”

The Sparks began the tournament 1-1 in pool play before competing in another five games of double-elimination bracket play. They wound up winning another three games before being knocked out, finishing the tournament at 4-3 overall. One of their bracket play victories saw the Sparks defeat an opponent 11-7 after having previously losing to them 4-3 during pool play.

“It was a really fun tournament,” remarked utility infielder and catcher Abigail Klayhold. “I liked that we got to play teams from all over the state. We got to see a lot of different playing styles facing a number of good teams from southern California who we hadn’t seen before.”

“Some of the teams were really good and we struggled at times, but we pulled through in a lot of the games,” commented shortstop Marissa Alcantar. “Overall we played well. Everyone contributed, the bottom of the order really came through, our defense and pitching were terrific.”

Both Montez and Alcantar mentioned how the opposing pitchers were a particular challenge in this tournament.

“The pitching styles were very different than what I’ve seen before,” admitted Alcantar. “Instead of a regular windup, there was a lot of extra movement so it kind of threw you off a bit.”

“Pitchers we saw were either fast or had a lot of movement,” confirmed coach Montez. “We just couldn’t keep up at times.”

Despite the challenges faced in the final tournament, the overwhelming sentiment was that the summer season exceeded expectations.

“I knew this team was going to be really good, but I didn’t expect to do as good as we did,” noted Klayhold. “It was just a great experience to be on a winning team and to be able to have a fun time with my teammates.”

“Once we picked the team I knew they were going to be solid. I just didn’t know they were going to be that good,” chuckled coach Montez with a wide grin. “Every team has their ups and downs, but overall I was really impressed with these girls.”

All told, Santa Clara won five of seven tournaments this season. Fitting of their team name, that is an absolutely sparkling performance.