Captains Utility Haliegh Wilkerson and Haley Rose pose on the field. (Lizzie Williams/Lariat)
The Saddleback College softball team rallied to win its first two games of the season during the the Mt. San Jacinto College Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 17. The Lady Gauchos literally knocked it out of the park with a 12-0 shutout against College of the Desert.
McKenna Walton and Rylee Argue contributed with three and two RBIs, respectively. In the second game against Oxnard College, Walton was on the mound the entire seven innings, pitching seven strikeouts, giving the team a 10-3 victory. Bridget Thorton and Carlee Russo led the with four RBIs in the tournament.
The streak took the opposite turn when the team was shutout in the next four consecutive games.
Co-captains Haliegh Wilkerson and Haley Rose, both sophomores, shared their perspectives on why the team is having some difficulties.
“It’s not fantastic, it obviously could be better,” Wilkerson said.
They said one factor is the small size of the team, with only 12 players on the roster. Both said it’s difficult to compete with teams with rosters of 30 or more women like some other teams in the Orange Empire Conference.
Rose said it’s been difficult as they’ve had to rethink their strategy with a new team.
“Everybody last year were sophomores, so we had to basically restart,” Rose said. “It’s kind of hard as a team because you have to get along on and off the field. When you get to know each other, you tend to work well together as a team. We are slowly trying to get there.”
There is a problem with the team’s maturity level because most of the players are fresh out of high school, Wilkerson said.
Both women, along with head coach Nick Trani said the competition is fierce in the OEC.
Cypress is currently ranked No. 1 in the state with a 40-game winning streak. Saddleback is currently ranked 6th in the conference.
The team has to rise to the occasion and play at a higher level, Wilkerson said. The captains now think they should take the season game by game and try to build. Rose would personally like to improve herself.
“I don’t really think we have had any girl drama this year,” Rose said. “I know for the majority of us, we don’t like to put up with it and we try to stay close. Staying close and positive as a team helps us do well when we are playing games. I know if we found out about any drama, we try resolve it immediately.”
Both Wilkerson and Rose agree this year everyone has experienced a lot of personal issues and the team being so small has only made them closer. They have opened up, which has helped the team bond and strengthen their relationships.