The Santa Clara Sparks 8U travel team finished off a summer to remember in Watsonville this weekend. The Sparks went 3-1 in their final tournament, winning the championship game by a 7-4 final.
“We played in five tournaments this year, we placed third twice, second twice and this last tournament we finally got over the hump, the third time’s a charm, as we took first place this weekend.” remarked Sparks Head Coach Rolly Vital. “We played in two previous championship games and came up short twice, so to finally get one and to get it in the last tournament, it’s a great way to end the season.”
A great way to end the season that saw a team with 15 players on the roster, all of whom saw regular playing time. Most of the Sparks’ opponents had only 10-12 players. However, Vital notes how proud he was that his girls won and lost as a team with everyone seeing the field.
“I tell them we are here to win, but I want to make sure they all have a good time and enjoy themselves, and want to come back,” acknowledged Vital. “As a coach, if you win every single game, but the girls did not enjoy themselves and don’t want to play again, then you really failed. On the flip side, even if we lose every game, but the girls had such a great time and want to come back and play the sport again, then that’s being successful.”
It’s certainly difficult to argue that the Sparks weren’t both very successful in developing and winning this summer, given the manner in which they finished the season on top in Watsonville’s Strawberry Jam tournament this past weekend.
“Rolly has done really great with the girls,” noted Vanessa Chagoya, whose daughter Kyleigh Bertron hit two inside-the-park home runs during the final tournament. “Just comparing them from their very first game to their very last, they grew tremendously. And yes, with a roster of 15, to get everybody playing time, he did a great job managing that.”
Bertron talked about her inside the park home runs, using her speed to get around the bases before the opposing outfielders can get the ball back into the infield.
“When it goes past the outfielders, I always think I have a chance at a home run, because the ball goes really far.”
At this age group, home runs are all inside the parkers, so girls are able to show off their speed. Stolen base success rate is also super high, because it’s tough to throw out runners at second base.
When asked why she likes softball, Assistant Coach Gabe Ghazanfari’s daughter Maya Ghazanfari responded, “I like the cheering and I like the running, I like stealing bases.”
In addition to Ghazanfari, the Sparks also had assistant coaches Art Gonzales, Jorge Mier, Matt Henry and Rafael Luis. Their team manager was Alma De La Vara, with team moms Marytess Kitong and Nicole Boscacci.
Rounding out the Sparks’ roster this year were Kianna Kitong, Lucy Jamieson, Madeline Joy Rius, Madelynn Gomez, Sabrina Azim, Anna Woon, Ava Beas, Caiya Boughton, Frazier Henry, Gianna Garrotto, Grace Valdez, Kalei Sanchez and Isabella Ramirez.