The Wilcox Chargers and Fremont Firebirds varsity softball teams finished out their season series at Wilcox on Wednesday. With a 12-0 win, the Chargers (4-4 in league) completed the season sweep of the Firebirds.
Wilcox is poised to make a run at the CCS playoffs with four games remaining on the schedule. On the other side of the diamond, the Firebirds (0-7) are still looking for their first win in the midst of a tough season where interim Head Coach Hector Zuno has taken over for Tony Phillips.
Fremont also has eight games remaining, five league and three non-league games to try and build some confidence going into next season. One of their key players this year, Linda Zuno, will be a senior next season. The younger Zuno had the loudest contact off Chargers pitcher Justine Valdivia.
“I know the pitcher, so I’m used to her speed,” noted Zuno on what led to her success at the plate on Wednesday. “I pretty much knew how she was going to throw and I’ve faced her before, so I was pretty well prepared heading into the game.”
Outside of Zuno, Valdivia pretty much shut down the rest of the Firebirds order. The Chargers’ ace pitched all five innings of the 10-run rule victory, picking up the complete game shutout.
“It’s nice having Justine out there. I’ve been catching her for three years, so I’m used to how she pitches and her mentality in the circle,” chimed Athena Gonzales. “She did really well today.”
“She worked really hard in the offseason, came back strong,” added Wilcox Head Coach Vanessa Chagoya. “Every game she gets stronger, she makes her adjustments a lot quicker now from pitch to pitch, from batter to batter.”
Along with Valdivia on the pitching rubber, the offensive standout for the Chargers on Wednesday was leadoff hitter Jessica Gutierrez. While the junior has plenty of power, whenever she reaches by single, walk or hit by pitch, it’s basically an automatic double given she’s one of the fastest runners in the De Anza division.
In the bottom of the first, Gutierrez stole second and the throw was not remotely close to being on time. Gutierrez then remarkably came all the way around to score from second on a wild pitch.
“It’s not something that happens too often,” chuckled Gutierrez with a wide smile. “Usually, the pitcher will cover the plate, but I read quickly that she wasn’t there and so I was able to take an extra base and score.”
“She’s a game-changer,” praised Chagoya on her sparkplug at the top of the Chargers’ lineup. “She’s a headache for any team that we face. She’s a triple threat. Whether that is putting down a bunt, or hitting triples and then just using her speed. She’s very game smart, not just with her speed, but today reading the play and taking advantage of the extra opportunity.”
Gutierrez also bats from the left side, one of a handful of Chargers’ left-handed batters, which Fremont southpaw pitcher Katie Lee acknowledged was a challenge for her on the rubber.
“They have a lot of lefties, so as a lefty pitcher, sometimes it’s a little challenging for me,” admitted the senior. “When I pitch it’s easier to hit them by accident if my control isn’t on point.”