Redwood Rangers capture share of league title

Caption: Redwood softball celebrates a home run from Ari Valencia on the road against Golden West. (Kason Clark)

Redwood softball guarantees at least a tie for the East Yosemite League title with 4-2 win over Golden West; Rangers improve to 8-1 in league, 16-9-2 overall

VISALIA – As Redwood softball finishes the regular season, the Rangers have one goal on their mind: a second straight East Yosemite League title. This past Tuesday, the Rangers had a chance to at least clinch a share of the EYL title when they went on the road to face the Golden West Trailblazers.

With that opportunity before them on May 7, the Rangers started the night hot with home runs from Ari Valencia and Bella Valdez to take an early 4-0 lead. They then held off the Trailblazers for the 4-2 victory to clinch a share of the EYL title and put themselves a win away from winning the title outright.

“It’s very exciting and kind of emotional because it’s my last year,” Valdez said about clinching at least a share of the EYL. “I’m glad that we were the ones to win it. I love the girls and I love my team.”

“This just means a ton to us,” Redwood head coach Stevie Johnson said. “These are senior players who are making really big impacts for us and securing that victory for us.”

With an overall record of 16-9-2 and a league record of 8-1, the Rangers just need to win their regular-season finale against Mt. Whitney to clinch the EYL outright. They also completed their season sweep of Golden West after beating the Trailblazers, 8-5, earlier in the season.

“It’s just hard work,” Valdez said about the Rangers’ success. “We put in a lot of work, a lot of hours during the week when we stay and take extra reps. We just give it everything we can.”

It took a while for the Rangers to take control against the Trailblazers, but they eventually got going in the top of the third inning. As the leadoff hitter for the Rangers, Valencia hit a solo home run to center field to give Redwood the lead. Then after two runners got on base, Valdez smacked a three-run home run to left to make it a 4-0 lead for Redwood.

“We just stepped up when we needed to step up,” Valdez said about their home runs. “Ari started it off with her home run and then I just knew I had to execute with runners in scoring position whether it was a base hit or my home run.”

After falling behind, the Trailblazers did their best to get back in the game. In the bottom of the fifth, Alondra Magallanes singled to drive in a run to cut the deficit to 4-1. Then in the sixth, Aniyah Venegas drove in another run with an infield single. But the Rangers limited the scoring to just those two runs to close out the win. 

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Redwood’s Jaden Lopez bats on the road against Golden West. (Kason Clark)

“Our pitchers did outstanding,” Johnson said about Redwood’s defense. “We made the plays that we needed to limit it to two runs and then ended up with the win, so overall defensively, we played really solid today.”

With their loss, Golden West fell to 19-8 overall and 4-5 in the EYL. While it was a tough loss, Golden West head coach Eli Carter liked how his team played and hopes that his team can grow and learn from this game as they prepare for a postseason run.

“We played great softball for seven innings so I don’t mind a 4-2 loss. I’ll take that because that will make us grow and be confident,” Carter said. “We always wanted to win the last game of the season. That’s our goal so if we can take a loss here, we can build on it and love how we played this game, I’ll take it.”

As for the Rangers, they hope to finish the regular season with an outright EYL title and build off that heading into the postseason. But if the Rangers are going to go on a run, Johnson believes they need to improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.

“We left a lot of runners on base and I felt like we could have definitely scored a lot more runs than we did today,” Johnson said. “We have to make sure that we are taking our pitches and not swinging at pitchers’ pitches. I felt like we watched a little too many strikes go by so we need to just be a little bit more disciplined at the plate.”

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