Despite a first round playoff exit, the young Kimball varsity softball team was given incentive ahead of next season with six individual All-League awards.

Having only one graduating senior on the roster, the Jags battled admirably and snuck into the postseason from fourth place in the Valley Oak League. They suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat at Los Banos in the playoff opener, but head coach Justin Bigler had plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.

“I believe in each girl on the roster,” Bigler told the Tracy Press. “It is all slowly coming together. To be the best, you have to play the best and we are trying to change the culture and atmosphere at Kimball and we are going to keep challenging the girls. We hope to make practice hard so that the games become easy.”

The room for optimism is growing for the Jags as six returning underclassmen shined bright and look set to be the core of an improved team after the turn of the calendar.

Headlining the set of individual awards was junior Sophia Coronado who claimed the VOL Co-Offensive Player of the Year award. Coronado topped the league in batting average (.524), hits (22), and runs (15). Bigler also still sees room for improvement.

“She has a passion for the game like no other,” the Jags head coach said. “We are working on a few aspects of her game and once that gets to where it can be, she will be even better than what she is now. If she continues her steady growth, next year will be an amazing year for her.”

Sophomore Olivia Rinker and freshman Kaeliana DePerio landed themselves All-League first team selections. Rinker was 40th in the whole state in total RBIs (43) and third in VOL with 15. In terms of the Kimball record books, Rinker is now tied for first place all-time in doubles in a season (14) and second in RBIs in a season.

“She is a very solid player,” Bigler said. “She has surprised us since day one of her freshman year. It doesn’t matter what happens, she always has a smile on her face. Her willingness to learn and be better day in day out is like no other. The next two seasons with her behind the plate, with our young pitching staff, will be a great asset to our program.”

DePerio emerged as a first year standout and finished the season leading VOL in stolen bases (12) and runs scored (15). She was also second in the league in hits with 20. Bigler was running out of superlatives for his freshman star.

“She has one of the best work ethics of anyone I have ever coached in 26 years at the high school and college level,” the coach said. “The sky's the limit for her and she will go as far as she wants with softball over the next seven years at the high school and collegiate level.”

Fellow freshman Paulina Sanchez made the All-League second team with a .431 batting average, 21 league and non-league runs scored, 31 hits and 16 RBIs. Sophomore’s Elysia Duarte and Bianca Quintero were selected for the VOL All Defensive team. Duarte had a .938 fielding percentage at third base. Quintero had a .950 fielding percentage and two home runs on the year.

• Contact Arion Armeniakos at aarmeniakos@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4229

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