An incredibly young Santa Clara Bruins softball team got a crash course of experience in a wild season opener Friday afternoon. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the Bruins softball program without a JV team this year and varsity with just eleven players. Six of the 11 are freshmen, a handful of whom are playing competitive softball for the very first time. And how did their softball careers start you ask? Oh, just with a typical, ho-hum 18-17 score in extra innings.
Santa Clara fell behind early as the Monta Vista Matadors jumped out to a 5-0 advantage in the first inning. The Bruins eventually found themselves down 9-1 before roaring all the way back and then some. The Bruins would score the next 15 runs in the game to take a 16-9 lead. Monta Vista returned the favor with a comeback of their own to force extra innings at 16-16.
After a scoreless top of the eighth, Santa Clara had the top of the order due up in the bottom of the inning. It was a great opportunity to win the game as leadoff hitter Vanessa Calvillo and cleanup hitter Abigail Klahold were powering the offense throughout the game. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, the eighth inning would end with the score still tied at 16-16. Monta Vista pushed across two runs in the top of the ninth while the Bruins mustered just the lone run in the bottom of the inning for a crushing loss.
“The first inning was obviously concerning at first, like how long is this game going to go,” said Bruins Head Coach Julie Kawamoto. “But then they just started picking it up and my returners started pulling through.”
One of those returners is the aforementioned Calvillo, who is one of the team’s two captains despite being just a sophomore. Along with an offensive day that included a double and an inside-the-park home run, Calvillo showed off that captain leadership in the very first inning from her shortstop position. With starting pitcher Sadie Rios struggling a bit with her location, Calvillo was loudly supporting her teammate in the pitcher’s circle throughout that top of the first inning.
“It was hard at first because it was really slow,” acknowledged the sophomore standout. “But as team captain, I took on the role as a leader and that we cannot let these girls get down. Since we have so many young players, it’s on me as a teammate and captain to keep them up.”
Not only did Calvillo lead by encouragement and her hitting, but she also led by example with her heads-up defense. With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the second, Calvillo backhanded a hard grounder into the five-and-a-half hole and then dove headfirst to tag the third base bag for a force-out to end the inning.
Alongside Calvillo, it was Klahold also leading the way. The Bruins’ starting catcher hit a pair of home runs, including a three-run shot that pulled the score to within 9-5 in the third. Senior center fielder Nicole Saulus also had a strong game both in the field and at the dish, as did Adrianna Reyes and Malana Dinwiddie.