When you have weather like the Southern Sierra foothills has experienced so far this spring, one of the joys of high school can be playing softball or baseball, taking some practice laps in the school pool, sprinting around a state-of-the-art track, hitting some tennis balls on nice new courts, or playing a round of golf on a lush, green golf course.
Compare playing spring sports to soccer practice on a cold, foggy winter day. Just being outdoors in spring can be rewarding, Now contrast that to student athletes who play football or run cross country in the fall sports season. July-August practices are routinely conducted on days when temperatures reach triple digits.
So you might think that the decision by the California Interscholastic Federation (the state’s governing body for high school sports) in 2017 to move the fall sports schedule up a week — and this year a full two weeks — might be weather-related. But actually the change was made to accommodate a spring sport — baseball — so sectional championships could now be followed by a regional championship and then crowning a state champion in all the league divisions.
It doesn’t mean much this year for Woodlake High baseball as they are not competing for a sectional or state championship. But it does mean that spring and fall sports virtually overlap with some fall sports workouts already started. The first official practice day is July 23.
This year, the move forward in the fall schedule means that the first football scrimmage will be on Saturday, Aug. 11. The first football game is scheduled for the following Friday, Aug. 17. The first day of school in the fall semester is Tuesday, Aug. 14.
For football fans, the most popular high school sport, they now get their Friday-night-lights fix a week or so earlier.
Girls’ Varsity Softball
“A highlight of our spring sports season was the resurrection of the WHS Girls’ Softball program,” said Jose Palomo, WUSD athletic director.
The Lady Tigers placed third in East Sequoia League play.
Manny Martinez, who has been a WHS varsity football assistant coach for nearly a decade, took over as the new softball coach. After opening the season with an eight-game losing streak, the Lady Tigers reeled off seven straight wins.
The reason for the turnaround? Hot bats up and down the lineup.
During the winning streak, the Lady Tigers scored 119 runs with the largest run production being a 24-1 lopsided win over the Strathmore Spartans.
“I brought several freshmen up from the JV team and my young team performed well under the pressure of the playoffs,” said Coach Martinez. “We finished 10-5 in East Sequoia League play and then beat Orosi in the first round of the playoffs.”
Coach Manny said with a second-round elimination in a game they could have won, he and his returning players can’t wait to get started for the 2019 season.
“I am honored to have been selected Coach of the Year,” Manny said. “I couldn’t have done it without the dedication of my players. They worked hard all year as I tried to ingrain in each player a desire to compete as they handled their business.”
Martinez also said that the team’s parents were appreciative and supportive whether they were winning or losing.
Callie Vincent, a senior from Three Rivers, was named the team’s MVP. Palomo described Vincent as a three-sport (volleyball, basketball, softball) beast.
Pria Bun was selected to the ESL First Team, playing third base. She was also named ESL offensive player of the year.
Claudia Zacarias was selected as ESL First Team outfield.
Track and Field
The team’s numbers grew to 40 athletes, the largest number of competitors since the new track was opened.
Henry Hagen was MVP and placed first in the East Sequoia League high jump. Andrew Lopez earned a second place in the ESL meet..
Reyes Aguilar finished in the top 10 in the county in the discus throw.
Lauren Little, a junior swimmer from Three Rivers, was named the team’s MVP and advanced to the Valley championships in the freestyle and breast-stroke.
Julian Duran also excelled as one of top freestyle swimmers in the section.
“With 15 members, the Boys’ Tennis team had the largest squad they’ve had in many years,” said Jose Palomo, WUSD athletic director.
Matias Avila and Luis Reyes were co-MVPs and qualified for the sectional tournament in doubles.
Coach Heather Sullenger awarded Most Improved Player to Gerardo Perez. Team captain was Raul Reynoso.
“We had a lot of new players this year but we learned a lot and finished third in East Sequoia League play,” said Coach Sullenger. “There are some quality, experienced players in our league so just to be competitive says a lot about our players.”
The team finished in third place in ESL play.
Fernando Juarez was MVP. Gabbie Aguilar was female MVP.
“We are in a rebuilding year,” said longtime coach Eddie Dominguez. “I’ve got some younger players getting ready and am doing active recruiting of potential players. It won’t be long until we are near the top of the ESL standings.”
Coach Ryan Martinez’s young team struggled this season but there is a lot of confidence that their rebuilding process will pay off over the next year or two,” reported Palomo.
Robby Stevenson was selected as First Team All-ESL at third base.
Nikko Bursiaga was named to the ESL Second Team as a pitcher.