Shortly after a game against the Oakdale Valley Magic Saturday, the players on the Calaveras Sliders Gold 12-and-under fastpitch softball team weren’t sure how to react.
The Sliders beat the Magic in the opening round of the Oakdale Tournament 12-5, and after getting confirmation of their victory, paused before breaking out into celebration of their first win in more than a year.
“When the umpire called time to end the game, some of the girls were asking ‘did we win?’” said Calaveras coach Paul Abeyta. “At first they looked confused, but once they found out and saw the parents celebrating, the girls acted like they won the World Series.”
The Sliders Gold had reason to celebrate. In the previous two seasons, the team posted a 1-42-1 overall record. Saturday’s victory was the team’s first since winning a game at a tournament in Vallejo in 2004.
Abeyta was an assistant coach in the previous two seasons and took over as head coach this year following an 0-22 season. He offered that a combination of things led to the Sliders not only winning their first game of the year, but three of their first five tournament games last weekend.
“I think the success is due to new personnel, accountability and a higher work ethic,” Abeyta said. “We were up front with them at the beginning and told them that we are going to run with this thing. We’re going to be practicing longer and harder.”
Abeyta also credited much of the team’s success to assistant coach Amada Busi, a 2005 Calaveras High graduate who earned first-team all-Mother Lode League honors as a pitcher in her senior year.
“Having Amanda on the team is huge for us,” Abeyta said. “She is a veteran of the game, played in high school, and really inspires the girls as a role model.”
The Sliders Gold showed that inspiration after their opening win, losing to the Castro Valley Synergy 5-1 in their second game. The Synergy are typically among the better teams in the area, and Abeyta was pleased the team was able to hang with the powerhouse.
“Losing to them 5-1 was an eye opener to us, because that’s when everyone realized that we can hang with good teams,” Abeyta said. “In the past they would have killed us 20-0, or something like that.”
After the loss, Calaveras notched two more wins against the Cordova Fury 16-1, and the Calaveras Sliders Green team 15-7, to get to the semifinals. The Sliders Gold then exited the tournament in a rematch loss 12-4 to Castro Valley, the eventual tournament champions.
Marvene Alvarez and Danielle Luis led the Sliders Gold in hitting during the tournament, each compiling two triples and a double.
Luis hinted that she had a feeling when the season started, that this year could be different.
“I was pretty excited when we won because we had more faith in ourselves this year,” Luis said. “I just had a hunch the team was going to be better.”
Alvarez offered that for her, improvement has been simply a matter of practice.
“When I was in first and second grade and started softball, I was pretty bad at hitting,” Alvarez said. “I guess I’m just getting used to the game more now.”
Calaveras hopes to keep up its improved play this weekend at a tournament in Folsom.