Rudy Carrasco was an avid supporter of the Tulare Western softball team and they will be playing the rest of the season in his honor
By Jermaine Johnson II
TULARE – The Tulare Western softball team will be playing the rest of their season with a heavy heart. Two weeks ago, the school’s Dean of Students Rudy Carrasco was killed after a driver ran a stop sign and crashed into his car.
Carrasco worked at the school for 23 years and was one of the team’s biggest fans. His daughter, Kelcey Carrasco, played on the team before graduating in 2016. She is now a senior on Fresno State’s softball team. Last Thursday was his funeral and the Mustangs had to play a game that afternoon. They defeated Clovis East 4-2.
“We were very emotional all the way around. He was my teacher, my athletic director, my colleague and always in my corner as a coach,” head coach Stevie Lopez said. “It’s been hard for us because he’s been a huge part of our program but the girls did what they needed to do today to honor him. We’re going to continue to play for him in every game that we have this season.”
In their first game after the tragedy, the Mustangs traveled to San Joaquin Memorial and won 25-1. The next game was the day of the funeral yet they managed to improve to 5-1 on the season.
“They executed their hits and they came through when we had runners on base. When there was an error made, they came back and picked themselves up,” Lopez said. “This was a huge win for us over a Division I school.”
Senior pitcher Makenzie Aguiar earned the win with two strikeouts despite allowing five hits and giving up two runs in the fifth. Nursing a 3-2 lead, sophomore shortstop Jeslyn Cuellar opened the bottom of the inning with a rocket to deep center field. She made it to third base and then made it home on an error. That pushed the score to 4-2 as Aguiar closed out the game with no more runs allowed. Cuellar also helped her team get the first run of the game in the first inning as her hit brought home sophomore Marissa Leon.
“Jeslyn is a two-strike hitter. Even in the last game against Memorial, during two of her at bats she had two strikes and came through and hit the ball,” Lopez said. “Defensively nothing can get past her, she is just a phenomenal athlete.”
The Mustangs scored their other two points in the fourth. With the bases loaded, sophomore Alondra Ruiz hit a single to bring home Aguiar. Shortly after, senior Madison Escobar made it home after junior Faith Able was walked.
Lopez is in her first year as head coach and already has the team performing better than previous years. Last season they began with a 1-5 record and the year before that they were 0-7.
“Athletically our girls are strong. Our culture has shifted to becoming more of a team and allowing them to work through their mistakes,” she said. “Our biggest thing this season is to change that mindset. When an error is made then they change that mindset to the Mustang mindset which is ‘you pick yourself up.’”
Goal-setting has also played a major role in the team’s success. They have several team goals that range from drinking a gallon of water a day to winning a valley championship. Each player also has individual goals that change throughout the season and are based on things they need to improve from the previous game.
Tulare Western won’t play again until Friday, March 13 when they compete in the Mira Monte tournament in Bakersfield.