A large contingent of local softball fans are hoping to see sparks fly up in Roseville this week. Santa Clara PAL’s U-14 tournament softball team (the Santa Clara Sparks) is currently playing in their final tournament of the summer. The Class B Western National Championship tournament is being held just past Sacramento. Temperatures are reaching well over triple digits in Roseville, where over 38 teams will each be competing in a minimum of four games.
“We’re ready, we’ve been practicing extra hard,” commented Sparks Head Coach Vanessa Montez shortly before the squad took off for their trip north. “The girls have been really focused these past two weeks especially. It’s going to be tough competition, but we’re ready, we’re excited.”
While Montez has literal family on the team in her sister Angelina Trujeque, the coach cited the team’s bond overall as a family atmosphere. The majority of the girls on the team have been playing together since a young age.
“The bond these girls have is amazing. Most of these girls have been playing together since they were eight-years-old. They clearly have a special bond playing together. Even the newer girls coming over from playing baseball fit in perfect.”
Similar to Little League, the Sparks are an All Star squad put together after a separate regular season. Every couple of weekends the Sparks play in tournaments throughout Northern California. In quite an impressive fashion, the Sparks have won five of their previous six tournaments this summer. One of those, a tournament at Sunnyvale’s Twin Creeks complex qualified them for this week’s Western Championship tournament. Teams from all over California, even squads from Los Angeles will be a part of the Sparks’ competition this week.
“I’m nervous and excited,” commented Trujeque, who often plays catcher for the Sparks. “I play second, and pitch, but I mostly prefer catcher. This is my first year batting leadoff, normally I’ll bat second or third.”
“We’ve had a lot of exciting games that were close, or that we came back and won,” chimed Alisa Bontrager. “I don’t know why I’m really nervous for this tournament, but I’m really excited too.”
Bontrager pitches, but says she prefers playing center field, where she would rather make a great defensive play than get a game-winning hit.
“I pitch, but I would much rather play center field. I just like center field better. I get to run around. I would rather make a game-winning catch than get a walk-off knock.”
Win or lose, this will be the final tournament of the season for the Sparks.
“This is the big one,” noted coach Montez with a smile. “If we win this, we are the best in California for our age group.”