It’s a new era of Selma softball, but for first-year head coach Chris Tapia, it’s not a season of rebuilding. It’s a season of high expectations for Tapia.
“My expectations are that we compete at a high level and the continue the traditions that we had in place,” Tapia said. “Act as its business as usual.”
Last season under former coach Amber Green, the Selma Bears ended the 2018 campaign as the Central Section Division III champions after a 12-6 victory over Dinuba at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond. It was the Bears second-straight Valley title and its third consecutive trip to Fresno State. Green was the coach of the two Section title winning teams.
If Selma wants to make a fourth-straight trip to the Section championship game, the Bears will have to go through a competitive Central Sequoia League schedule that will feature 12 games against six teams that won at least one playoff game last year.
Last year, Selma and Dinuba were two of three teams in the league to appear in a Valley championship game. The other team was Exeter, who won the Division IV title.
In 2018, the Bears finished in third place of the CSL at 7-3 behind co-league winners Dinuba (8-2) and Kingsburg (8-2). Before Selma’s first league loss last season, the Bears won 35-straight CSL games from 2015-18. The streak was snapped by Exeter last April.
Selma also failed to clinch a title for the first time since 2014. The Bears were the three-time reigning champs prior to the 2018 season.
This year will have the addition of Hanford West, who were co-champions of the West Yosemite League at 10-2 in 2018. The Hanford West Huskies are also the CSL’s only Division I squad. Kingsburg is also the league’s only Division II team.
“We expect the league to be very, very competitive,” Tapia said. “We’re going to compete like we’re champions.”
Team captains Genesis Rodriguez and Dominique Trevino - who were part of the past two Valley championship teams - said they expect to compete for another Section title as seniors.
“We’re expecting to win it,” Trevino said. “We’re working for it.”
“We want to make it three [straight],” Rodriguez said.
Notable returners from last year’s starting lineup include Majenta Harper, Ashley Paz, Marissa Cerda, and Clarissa Moreno.
Two positions that will have a different starter than last year will be at pitcher and catcher.
Tapia said both Alyssa Grijalva and Emilee Sanchez will have multiple chances to pitch significant innings throughout the season.
As for the catcher position, Tapia said Genna Martinez, a sophomore, has been a standout so far, but she hasn’t been officially named the starter.
Tapia said both pitcher and catcher positions will be a competition all season long.
“I tell them ‘It’s a fluid situation,’” Tapia said. “That goes for all of our positions. It’s riding the hot hand sometimes, it’s who’s practicing better, who may matchup with pitchers. Some girls hit certain pitchers better than others. So I think that will continue to foster the competitive environment. I don’t want anyone being comfortable.”
So far in 2019, Selma is 2-1 with wins over Reedley and Monache. The Bears defeated the Reedley Pirates 11-2 on Feb. 12 to open the season. Selma defeated the Monache Marauders 13-4 on Feb. 25.
The Bears’ only loss of the season so far was a 9-3 defeat to Sanger on Feb. 19.
In the game against Monache, Grijalva threw five no-hit innings in relief for the win. In the season opening game against Reedley, Grijalva had a complete-game win after allowing two runs.
Selma is scheduled to play a doubleheader today at a tournament hosted by Buchanan High School. In game one, the Bears will play Edison at 5 p.m. followed by a matchup with Buchanan at 7 p.m.
The tournament will take tomorrow and Friday off, but will continue on Saturday.
Selma will start CSL play on the road against Central Valley Christian on March 12. The Bears’ next home game will occur March 15 against Dinuba at 4 p.m.