The expectations were not necessarily high for the Calaveras High School softball team heading into the 1995 season. Calaveras had never won an outright Mother Lode League championship and hadn’t sniffed a section title in years.
Once the final pitch of the season was thrown, Calaveras was able to cross both of those unreached goals off its list. Calaveras finished the 1995 season with an overall record of 22-1, while going a perfect 15-0 in league play and capturing the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship.
It was an exciting end to a year that didn’t have a lot of bettors picking Calaveras to be the best team on the diamond.
“We were actually not expected to do very well that season,” Carrie Ford (née Jasper) said. “I believe we were at the bottom of the teams to look out for. We were a very determined and very competitive group of young ladies. So, when we saw where they had us predicted (to finish), it sparked us to prove everyone wrong.”
Jasper, a starting pitcher, was one of the key returning players, along with catcher Jennifer Schock, Sharron Heffington and Mattie Rodriguez. New to the squad was Jayci Raper, Jamie Henton and Erica White. Rounding out the Calaveras roster was Becky Wentz, Suzanne Duke, Danielle Hunt and Mandie Mallatt. Calaveras was coached by Randy Jasper, Bonnie Mellon and Rod Henton.
Henton was a first-year Calaveras coach and he had his team ready to play, both mentally and physically, before the first pitch of the season was thrown.
“Rod was passionately competitive and very focused on the fundamentals of the game,” Suzanne Ballinger (née Duke) said. “I think the goal was to do all those things, but every moment was competitive. Everyone worked their butt off daily, but we had a lot of fun together. When the serious switch was turned on, you knew to focus. You knew not to think that you were too good to run.”
Calaveras began the 1995 season with a victory, which turned out to be the trend of the year. Jasper went 3 for 4, Henton smacked a home run, and Heffington also picked up three hits in a 12-2 win over Franklin.
Calaveras’ only loss of the season came while competing in the Ripon Tournament. Calaveras finished the tournament with two wins and one loss. In the opening game of the tournament, Calaveras lost to the defending league champion Argonaut Mustangs 4-1. Calaveras wrapped up the tournament by knocking off Ripon and Manteca.
Calaveras won two more games before taking on Argonaut to begin the league season. Calaveras got some revenge for the preseason loss to Argonaut by beating the defending champs 2-0. Jasper pitched a onehitter to silence the Mustang bats. Calaveras then beat Linden 6-2 and Rodriguez went 3 for 3, while Schock and Raper collected RBIs. In a 7-1 win over Amador, Henton blasted a three-run home run.
The wins continued to pile up, as Calaveras again beat Linden, this time 6-1 to improve to 6-0 in league play. Schock went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, while Duke also collected two hits. The Summerville Bears put Calaveras to the test, but the future section champs were able to walk off the diamond with a 2-1 victory. In the win over the Tuolumne squad, Henton scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the eighth inning. Jasper went the distance, only allowing one hit and striking out 10 in Calaveras’ eighth win of the league season.
Even as Calaveras added to its win total, the players still felt as though they were the underdogs and had something to prove every time they stepped on the field.
“I think for most of the season we didn’t even realize that we were the team to beat, just because the whole league in general was all on the same level of play,” Ford said. “At any time, any team could have been on top. There were many close games.”
In a county battle with Bret Harte, Calaveras blanked the Bullfrogs 7-0. Schock singled, doubled and walked, while Heffington went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and Duke collected a double. Calaveras got its 10th win with a 2-0 victory over Amador. Jasper struck out 11 in the shutout.
Jasper had two outstanding back-to-back games in the circle, as she threw no-hitters against Amador (6-0) and Linden (3-0). Against Amador, Jasper only allowed one walk, which prevented her from finishing with a perfect game. And against Linden, she struck out 11 and only allowed one walk.
“I was only as good as the ladies on the field,” Ford said. “I always knew if I was having an off day, they would be there behind me. Even when I would throw a no-hitter, it wasn’t just mine; it was the whole team’s. We never let anyone single out anyone as better than anyone else. I was always nervous going into a game and expected a lot from myself and felt like I needed to be at the top of my game all the time. Jen (Shock) was good about keeping my head in the game. We were an amazing team. She kept us all in line and she kept me in line.”
Jasper’s back-to-back no-hitters pushed Calaveras’ league record to 12-0. Calaveras finished the league season with wins over Argonaut (4-1), Bret Harte (6-1) and Summerville. Calaveras was riding high heading into the postseason.
“It is hard to put into words of the feeling we felt to be undefeated, but we earned every win,” Ford said about winning the Mother Lode League title. “I think the main thing was we were very confident in ourselves individually and as a team we worked as one unit. We were always cheering each other on never letting anyone hang their heads.”
With a league championship to its name, Calaveras quickly shifted its focus to the playoffs. The young squad knew they’d face tough competition, regardless of who was in the opposing dugout.
“Going into the playoffs, we were so excited and nervous, but confident at the same time,” Ford said. “But we knew we could do it and just did what we did all season, which was to come together.”
In the opening round of the playoffs, Calaveras defeated Hughson 2-0. Jasper struck out 13, gave up three hits and hit three batters. Calaveras got six hits in the win. Calaveras then beat Marysville 2-1 to get within one game of the section championship. With a trip to the title game on the line, Calaveras beat Lincoln 4-1.
With the section championship at stake, Calaveras beat LeGrand 4-2. Jasper struck out 10 batters while giving up just four hits. Calaveras led 4-0 heading into the sixth and although LeGrand made things interesting by scoring twice, Calaveras was able to hold on for the blue banner.
“I mean, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to have been a part of the group of ladies that earned that banner,” Ballinger said. “Those were my best friends. We definitely had a synergy that helped us work together like a well-oiled machine. We all earned it with hard work and determination. Some of the most important lessons of my life were learned on that field.”
Henton led Calaveras with a season average of .250. Jasper allowed only four runs in the final 175 innings of the season and led the team in RBIs. Jasper was selected as the Mother Lode League’s MVP. Schock, the only senior on the team, was an all-league player, along with Henton. Head coach Rod Henton was the Coach of the Year.
Calaveras has reached the section title game five times since 1995, but still only holds one championship banner. For Jasper, being part of that title team is a memory she still cherishes.
“The group of ladies that year were amazing,” Ford said. “It was one of the only teams I have played on that we all got along and had the same end-goal, which was to play our best and to always be there for each other.”