Los Banos softball has strong college tradition

dwitte@losbanosenterprise.comApril 25, 2014 

For many high school teams, landing one player on a college roster is something to celebrate. The 2011 Los Banos High School softball team, however, has five members still playing on a college softball roster.

“It’s definitely one of those special groups you don’t have very often, not just in terms of the ones still playing, but the amount of time they put in toward reaching their goals in high school,” said Pacheco athletic director and softball coach Charlie Pikas, who coached that team along with his wife, Amy Pikas, in their last year coaching at LBHS. “They had really been together since junior high, and they came up and played junior high softball when it was still at the junior high. We got a hold of them after they graduated, and started a travel program with that group. They knew each other, were there for each other, and we added some pieces along the way.”

That team went 22-11 and tied with Patterson atop the Western Athletic Conference standings at 9-1, then advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship, dropping the second game of the double-elimination bracket to Sierra.

Today, three players who were seniors that year are now junior softball players – pitcher Kelsie Monroe at NCAA Division-1 CSU Bakersfield; catcher Taylor Clancy at Division-2 University of Texas, Permian Basin, after a two-year stint at Midland College, a Texas junior college; and infielder Taylor Snowden at the NAIA’s Menlo College after her two years of junior college (one at San Joaquin Delta in Stockton and one at Merced College).

“When I first got to college, I was used to teammates that were good players, but college is so different,” Clancy said. “It’s like 10 times more intense.”

Monroe said the lessons learned playing for that team helped have her out in college.

“I don’t think there’ll be a team that compares to that. The chemistry we had was insane,” she said. “We never expected to make it that far in the first place. It was definitely a heart breaker, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”

Those three were joined a year later by shortstop Taylor Mendez at NCAA Division-2 University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., and this year by infielder Mayra Espitia, a freshman at Merced College.

“We played together as a team. For the most part we had each other’s backs,” Mendez said about that 2011 squad. “We ended up losing, but we didn’t give up. We still played that last game. It was a tough loss, but look, we’re all still in college. It wasn’t the end of the world.”

In addition to those five, first baseman Xitlalli Bobadilla has pursued a college volleyball career at Indiana Tech of the NAIA (she played there as a freshman, then detoured for a year at Gavilan College, and is now back at Indiana Tech), and Alexis Barcellos, who was called up from JV during league play that year, began her freshman year at CSU Stanislaus playing tennis before a tear in her shoulder derailed her career. She may make a softball comeback via junior-college, according to her dad, LBHS athletic director Joe Barcellos.

Catcher Angela Rodriguez, who played outfield that year as a freshman, is still a senior at LBHS.

Mendez can tell Barcellos all she needs to know about torn shoulders – she missed all but the first five games of her freshman season with a torn labrum. She made her comeback this year to play outfield for UMary, and has emerged as one of the team’s top hitters, batting .336 with 5 home runs.

“I went back to my athletic trainer, I came back and went after rehab like crazy, and right after Christmas I was cleared,” Mendez said. “It took a little bit of time, but it will actually be a year from my surgery next Friday. We have a girl that just recovered from a total knee blowout, and she’s our designated hitter. She’s dominating in the box.”

Clancy, meanwhile, can talk about detours – after her two years at Midland, she spent a semester at East Texas Baptist University, a Division-3 team, before deciding it wasn’t right for her.

“Things just didn’t pan out. It wasn’t the right fit,” she said. “Now at UTPB, It’s a lot better.”

Her new home, where she’s batting .223 with six doubles, is 20 miles down the road from Midland, a place she fell in love with while playing there.

“Everyone’s super nice and friendly. I’ve clicked really well with my teammates,” Clancy said. “I got lucky, one of the pitchers from my JUCO is here, so I already have a friend. We work together really well.”

Clancy is pursuing a major in kinesiology and education, with a minor in mathematics. She hopes to one day be a softball coach, but failing that, can fall back on teaching and coaching in high school.

Monroe and Snowden played together for a year at San Joaquin Delta, but when Monroe moved on to CSU Bakersfield after her freshman year, Snowden transferred to Merced, where her .284 batting average caught the eye of Menlo’s coaches. She’s batting .220 this year.

Monroe has found the going a little rough in Division 1, but has come up with a few signature wins over teams like Oregon State. She has a 9-17 record this year with a 3.34 earned-run average.

“It’s been rough, but fun at the same time,” she said. “I think this year has been a learning experience for our team, but we have the potential. I think we’ll make some noise at the WAC tournament.”

Espitia is working to become the next to make the jump from junior college – she’s batting .253 this year at Merced College, and has the best fielding percentage on the team.

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