Watsonville High sophomore pitcher Amelia Martinez makes her return to the Wildcatz softball team that was demoted to the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division this season. (Raul Ebio/The Pajaronian)

A small dark cloud currently hangs above the Watsonville High softball team, which at the moment has five players either sidelined with injuries or unable to perform this season.

Those on the injury reserve list includes senior co-captain Cameron Llamas with a quad injury and standout sophomore Audrina Gonzalez with a bruised finger. Their newest teammate Kiana Perreira—a senior transfer from Gilroy—also continues to ride the bench until she’s eligible to play March 30.

Watsonville head coach Pete Legorreta said the offensive production has significantly dropped, but it should be a different story once those three players return to the lineup.

“Life’s given us lemons and the girls know we make lemonade,” Legorreta said. 

Despite the depleted roster, the ‘Catz are off to a 2-1 start in Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division play with wins over King City and Monte Vista Christian.

Leading the way is senior co-captain Julia Maldonado, who has seven hits, including four doubles, eight RBIs and six runs scored, according to statistics on the MaxPreps website. 

Maldonado has also been playing through some injuries. She said some players are still getting used to playing at a new position on the field, but they’ve managed to hold it down.

Watsonville walked away victorious in a thrilling 7-6 win over MVC on March 19. Maldonado batted 1-for-3 with one stolen base.  

“It was huge to get this team win because it was really together, everybody was on the same page at the same time and that’s what made us really come through in the end,” she said. 

Esperanza Sigala, a freshman, has also been a shining star for Watsonville. She had a clutch solo home run off MVC pitcher Mae Martin that tied the game at 2-all in the sixth inning, 

“I wanted to crush the ball,” Sigala said. “I knew to scoot up, to take away that pitch.”

Sigala followed with a double that drove in two runs in the seventh frame, helping the ‘Catz beat the Mustangs. She is batting a .500 (12-for-24) average, including three doubles, one triple, one home run, two stolen bases, eight runs scored and nine RBIs this season. 

Other standouts include juniors Jillian Lerma and Ashley Jimenez, and sophomore Amelia Martinez. The trio are already making their presence felt at the plate. 

Lerma has a team-best three triples with seven runs scored, while Jimenez has eight hits with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Martinez is batting a .364 (8-of-22) average with one double, one home run, seven RBIs and seven runs scored for the ‘Catz. 

Underclassmen making an impact are freshmen Taylor Alves and Olivia Martinez, who was called up from the JV team.

Legorreta said he’s optimistic but the journey is going to be rough, especially because the outfield isn’t as solid as in the past.

“But it’s okay, we’ll enjoy the ride,” he said. 

There are also times when this young Watsonville squad shows signs of inexperience. One example was allowing MVC to get back in the game by giving up two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings.

“A lot of the girls on the team are really young and first time varsity players,” Maldonado said. “I just wanted them to feel as calm as possible. Don’t make the inning bigger than it is, don’t make the situation bigger than it is. Like I was telling Amelia [Martinez], ‘Stay within yourself, it’s one pitch at a time.’”

In 2023, the ‘Catz featured a young pitching rotation with Amelia Martinez, then a freshman, leading the way in the top tier Gabilan Division. They finished with a 4-15 overall record, going 0-14 in league play. 

The Gabilan Division produced five Central Coast Section champions in Hollister (Open Division), Notre Dame-Salinas (Division I), Monterey (D-II), Alvarez (D-III) and North Salinas (D-V). 

It’s been three years since the ‘Catz won the D-I championship against Westmont in 2021, and six years since capturing a league crown in the now defunct Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division. 

Watsonville was demoted to the PCAL Mission Division with just four players returning from last year’s squad, including Martinez. So far, she’s been impressive in the circle with a 4-1 record and a 2.07 ERA while recording 52 strikeouts in nine appearances. 

Joining her is sophomore Mia Espinoza, who currently owns a 3-1 record and a 5.57 ERA while recording 20 strikeouts in five appearances for Watsonville.

It’s a huge turnover, but Legorreta said they’ll be able to hang with the best of them. 

“I’m very excited for the prospects this year,” he said. “I think we’re gonna compete.” 

Watsonville will compete in a division loaded with talented teams in MVC, King City, Carmel, Gonzales, Santa Catalina and CCS D-IV runner-up Pacific Grove.

The ‘Catz suffered their first defeat in league action following a 12-0 loss to Carmel on March 21. It was a huge blow early in the league season, yet Legorreta said he expects the players to give 100% at all times and continue to claw through the competition despite the hardships. 

Legorreta believes the great thing about sports is athletes learn to overcome obstacles in sports, and life itself. 

“I want them to take life lessons from this and work hard,” he said.

Next up, Watsonville (7-2, 2-1) plays at North Monterey County High (3-5-1, 0-4) in non-league action April 1 at 5pm, and will continue PCAL Mission Division play at Pacific Grove (6-6, 2-1) on April 3 at 4:30pm. 

Previous articleWatsonville’s Giancarlo Mendo, Aptos’ Mileena Carbajal named Preps of the Week | Central Coast Prep Sports Ticker
Next articlePhoto Story: Aviation Education
A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here