Last Update: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
|Parrots Have Worked Hard To Take Off|
|Written by Mike Terry | Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 08 May 2014 04:03|
M. Terry / SFVS
Batgirls — The Poly High softball team has been powered this season by the trio of talented juniors (l-r) Priscilla Loredo, Alondra Rodriguez and Desiree Ibarra.
After Missing The Playoffs In 2013, Poly’s In Position To Win East Valley League
Those parents blessed with children understand how the world can spin off its axis once the babies become teenagers. It’s a period of life of no longer being a kid but not yet an adult, when they think they know everything because of texting and the Internet but still have so much to learn.
Coaching high school sports can be a lot like parenting, with more turnover. Sometimes there is a great group to work with; other times it’s like pulling teeth with dental floss. But the goal is the same: getting them to realize their potential and become the best they can be.
Even when the effort is rewarding it can be debilitating. When it’s not rewarded it, it goes beyond disappointing. So when the Poly High softball team did not not qualify for the 2013 City Section Division I playoffs despite a 17-11 overall record and second place finish in the East Valley League, Coach Manny Peralta was so worn out emotionally he privately wondered if both he and the team needed a break from each other.
“For a couple of years I thought maybe a younger person should do it,” said Peralta, who is in his 14th season at Poly. “Coaching is a lot different now than when I started, with budgets, liability and everything else that had come around that wasn’t teaching the game. I wondered how much I had left in me.”
He decided he wanted to stay, in part for the nine seniors he had on this year’s team. There was also some precocious talent in the form of three juniors — Alondra Rodriguez, Desiree Ibarra and Priscilla Loredo — ready to emerge along with seniors like Angie Ramos and Dezerae Casares. And he honestly wanted one more chance to build this group into a winner.
Peralta’s vision is coming to fruition. The Parrots began the week 18-6, and 9-1 in the East Valley League. They enter the final week of the regular season with a chance to win the East Valley outright for the first time since 2009, beginning with a home game against Grant on Wednesday, May 7, and a road game against Monroe on Friday, May 9. Winning the league outright guarantees them a playoff berth. “That’s been our goal,” Peralta said.
A goal that, if completed, would be a team effort. The aforementioned Ramos has been the team’s main pitcher, throwing nearly 95 percent of the innings. Casares is a “glue” presence, playing in the field wherever needed and being a fiery supporter in the dugout whenever heads, emotions and effort start drooping. “She’s not five feet tall,” Peralta said, “but she’s the toughest kid on the team. She fights every minute out there, never puts her head down. That’s a reason she is a captain.”
Then there is that trio of juniors.
Ibarra, Loredo and Rodriguez have known each other and played together in recreational leagues since they were small children. Since coming to Poly, Rodriguez and Ibarra have been on the varsity since they were freshmen; Loredo made it in her sophomore year.
They are all potent with the bat. Rodriguez, a shortstop, is hitting .420 with 37 hits and 28 runs batted in. Ibarra, the first baseman and designated hitter, is hitting .417 with 35 hits and 25 RBIs. Loredo, an outfielder, has also driven in 25 runs while hitting .388 with 33 hits. “They are basically the core of the offense,” Peralta said.
They also have cachet among their teammates, and could have negatively impacted Peralta’s plans for 2014 if so inclined. He was going to make this group work harder than ever before, having them play summer, fall and winter league games before the regular season to hopefully develop a higher level of on-field skill and deeper camaraderie. This meant more than just conditioning and practice; it also meant sacrificing individual pursuits — like being a teenager — for the team goal.
Loredo, 16, said the plan has worked.
“I think it paid off,” she said. “It helped us work better as a team and with each other, so when the regular season started we could all work as a team and not not play together … It also helped with confidence. Not that we were ‘champions’ or anything, but we saw there was a lot more we could accomplish.”
The others agree. Rodriguez, 16, admits she had more of a “wait-and-see” attitude, but now says, “It has worked out because we worked pretty hard at it. And the team got better.” Ibarra, 17, concludes, “Our biggest problem last year was we didn’t have much team chemistry. This year we have way better chemistry. We know what to do to make each other better. … The biggest improvement: we work harder in practice. We take everything seriously because we know how it will affect us in the long run.”
The only lingering question is whether the demands of playing such a heavy offseason schedule has caused fatigue, physically or mentally. The Parrots entered this crucial final week having lost four of the last five games, including their lone league loss to Arleta on April 30, and two weekend tournament games to Kennedy and Chatsworth — potential City playoff opponents — on Saturday, May 3.
The players say no. They want to win the league outright and finish the 2014 season strong.
“Physically we took a little break during spring, and our bodies are back now, Loredo said. “We needed it. Mentally, I think we’re good.”
“We are more competitive now,’” insists Rodriguez. “Last year we needed a lot of help… some of the kids hadn’t played that much and we didn’t work together.”
Ibarra adds the confidence level is high thanks to Peralta’s coaching. “He’s taught us to believe in ourselves. He’s always told us that if we don’t believe in ourselves, no one else will. We try our best to help each other with confidence.”
And this flock of Parrots has shown Peralta he was right to continue at Poly.
“The team is fun,” the coach said. “If they struggle they want me to get the hitting tees out. It’s not me trying to force it. They want to do the work; you see the passion to be successful. This team has rejuvenated me. I feel like I can still do this.
“We know we can play better, that we can win league and get ready for playoffs. I have worried if they are tired, trying to rest them as much as I can. But I feel we’re the best team in our league. I think they’re ready.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 04:16|