THE BEE'S CO-OUTSTANDING SOFTBALL HITTERS OF THE YEAR
• Grade: Junior
• School: Redwood
• Qualifications: Driving force behind West Yosemite League champion and Central Section Division III title-winning Rangers delivered .614 average with nine doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and section-leading 69 RBIs (according to stats kept on maxpreps.com), despite missing eight games after coming out late from basketball. "She has a really good eye," coach Bob Rooney said. "Even when she has two strikes, that doesn't bother her. She can work the pitcher for a lot of pitches before she puts the ball in play. She just fights for every at-bat." Shortstop, now a two-time All-Bee honoree, was Co-MVP of the WYL along with Hanford West's Makenna Young.
• Leading the way: Redwood suffered three of its six losses while Cervantes was out of the lineup. Rangers then went 20-3 en route to school's first section softball title. Cervantes was at her best when her team needed it most, homering in each of Redwood's three playoff games, including a two-run shot in a 9-3 title victory over Kingsburg. "Just having that presence in our lineup made a big difference," Rooney said. "It affected the rest of our players as well. They worked just as hard to try and keep the whole thing going. Without her, it would have been a different season. We might have made it, but with her guaranteed we had a fighting chance."
• Up next: Recruiting process is just starting to heat up for a three-year starter with a career .533 average, 16 homer and 147 RBIs (fifth-most in section history, according to historian Bob Barnett).
• He said it: "She has a lot of poise out there. Whether she's on defense or offense, that doesn't matter. She's a woman playing a kids' game. Nothing phases her. I've never seen her get flustered. She always appears to have everything under control. And when you have that much confidence, it's contagious. Her confidence rubbed off on her teammates. They felt like we were better when she was out there." -- Rooney
• Grade: Junior
• School: Hanford West
• Qualifications: Three-year starting catcher and leader of Huskies team that went 26-8 and captured second straight Central Section Division II title. Co-West Yosemite League MVP hit .540 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs, 50 RBIs and 39 runs. "Her big improvement this year over last year is she used to swing at balls out of the zone," Hanford West coach Jeff Harger said. "But she matured and stopped doing that. She shrunk her zone. She knew the pitchers she could handle and her batting average jumped because of it. She stayed within herself, which produced amazing results." Young went 1 for 3 with a stolen base and a run in 10-0 win over Memorial in the section final.
• The big switch: Despite being team's top run-producer, Young was moved by Harger from the three-hole to leadoff at midseason because opponents were walking her. Young would get on base at a .626 clip while stealing a team second-best 20 bases. "She killed it," Harger said. "When they would walk her, it turned into a double. Automatic."
• All the tools: In addition to hitting for average and power, and her speed, Young is one of the top defensive catchers in the section. She made five errors in 144 chances (a .965 fielding percentage) while throwing out six base stealers. "She solidified that spot for us," Harger said. "Walks and singles against us didn't turn into doubles. And any balls in the dirt, she blocks. That's a great relief to a coach."
• Up next: Already committed to Cal Poly, Young will look to build on career numbers that include a .448 average with 23 doubles, three triples, 20 homers 92 RBIs and 84 runs. She'll attempt to earn a fourth section title ring after Hanford West won in D-II her sophomore season and D-III as a freshman.
• He said it: "A kid like Makenna changes the game from a defensive standpoint and an offensive standpoint. She always came up big for us. And as a coach, when your best player is also your hardest worker, you've got a special kid. And that's what she was to me." -- Harger
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6103.