Bri Head and Alanda Cardon started playing softball together when they were 7 years old. Their softball journeys began as members of the Calaveras Gold and end as they wrap up their Calaveras High School careers as co-Most Valuable Players of the Mother Lode League.
Head and Cardon are both four-year varsity starters and helped Calaveras secure four consecutive Mother Lode League titles and three straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game appearances.
This is Cardon’s second time sharing the MVP award, as she and teammate Alexis Dawe were co-MVPs in 2017. Getting to once again share the award with a teammate isn’t something that disappoints Cardon.
“I love Bri and we get along really well,” Cardon said. “I’m glad that I could get this award with her because we are both seniors and we grew up playing together and we are finishing together. It’s nice to get it with someone I’m so close with.”
When Cardon was co-MVP following her sophomore year, she was a full-time shortstop. Now, she won the award as a full-time catcher. At the beginning of the season, Cardon was moved from short to behind the dish. Initially she wasn’t fully in favor of the move, but put her team first and began to feel at home in her new spot.
“At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t too happy,” Cardon said. “But as the year went on, I was fine with it. I got more comfortable back there. I used to catch for travel ball, and although I don’t as much anymore, I still know what I’m doing. As the season went on, it didn’t bother me where I played.”
The move that placed Cardon behind the plate also affected Head. For three years, Head’s target was Dawe. She had built a strong rapport with Dawe and was comfortable with her catching style. But when the move was made, it didn’t take long for Head and Cardon to find themselves on the same page.
“It was an easy transition,” Head said. “We’ve grown up together, we started playing softball together and we ended our high school careers together. It wasn’t difficult at all.”
Cardon may have been slightly uncomfortable in her new position early in the season, but there was no discomfort with a bat in her hands. Cardon’s video game-like numbers did damage all year to opposing pitchers. She hit .596 with 56 hits, drove in 50 runs, scored 36 times, and smacked 14 doubles, four triples and two home runs. Cardon finished the season with a 26-game hitting-streak. She hit RBIs in 22 games and drove in two or more runs 16 times.
Although her numbers could make any player jealous, Cardon didn’t bother keeping up with her stats.
“I really didn’t pay attention,” Cardon said. “I don’t think I looked at any stats the whole season. I just played.”
Cardon wraps up her Calaveras career with an average of .529 in 113 games. She collected 194 hits, drove in 182 runs, scored 145 times, recorded 50 doubles, 14 triples and 15 home runs, and only struck out 17 times in 433 career plate appearances.
“I think she (Alanda) was absolutely one of the top players in the league,” Calaveras head coach Mike Koepp said. “Not just because of her numbers, but the overall results of our team. She deserved to get the highest honor. Alanda was our best hitter this year and arguably our best defensive player.”
Unlike Cardon, there was no question as to where Head would play. The biggest issue surrounding Head was whether or not she’d be healthy enough to be on the diamond. Head suffered a knee injury during the offseason and missed the first two games of the year. When she was cleared to play, there were strict rules she had to follow. Head was not allowed to field any balls outside of the pitching circle and could only run to first base, but rounding the bag wasn’t allowed.
“It was definitely pretty tough because it was my senior year and I wanted to do all that I could to help us win in any situation they needed me in,” Head said. “It was hard not being able to charge a bunt or get that extra base while hitting.”
Even playing with only one solid leg, Head dominated in the circle. She finished the year 19-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 105 innings pitched. Head gave up just 32 earned runs, while striking out 68 and limiting opponents to an average of .251. Opponents scored one run or less in 11 of her starts.
“Bri has had an outstanding four years,” Koepp said. “She’s been my No. 1 pitcher since her freshman year. Her best outing this year was the Casa Roble playoff game and she threw a shutout. That was a big game. There’s a reason why she was labeled our No. 1, and she made us a better team.”
At the plate, Head still managed to hit .403 with 25 hits and 27 RBIs. She only struck out twice in 68 plate appearances. Head finishes her Calaveras pitching career with a 56-11 record and an ERA of 2.41. At the plate, she has a career average of .398 with 74 hits and 63 RBIs.
Head and Cardon have accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish on a softball field, except winning a section championship. For three straight years, Calaveras lost in the section title game. Although they don’t have a blue banner to their names, Head won’t let the losses outweigh the wins.
“If you look at our whole high school career, we know that we had a great career here at Calaveras,” Head said.
Head and Cardon will wear new softball uniforms next spring. Head will play for Valley City State University in North Dakota, and Cardon will play for the University of Texas at El Paso. Even though her softball career isn’t over, Cardon will miss being a part of Calaveras’ program.
“It’s been my comfort zone and escape,” Cardon said. “I always enjoyed coming to practice and going to the games and just hanging out with the girls. I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most. It’s not actually playing, more just hanging out with everyone.”