The Watsonville High softball team celebrates after capturing the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division title following a 15-1 victory over Gonzales High in the teams' regular season finale April 8. (Juan Reyes/ The Pajaronian)

In 2023, the Watsonville High softball team finished with a winless record in the top-tier Gabilan Division by going 0-14 in league play.  

It stung at the time for senior co-captain Cameron Llamas who had to endure through what she called a disappointing season. 

But in the span of just one year, Llamas and her teammates had one of the biggest turnarounds in the program’s history. 

On Thursday, the Wildcatz went from worst to first after capturing the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division crown. It was the team’s seventh overall league title and first since winning the now defunct Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division in 2018. 

“For me, it’s everything,” Llamas said. “We worked really hard all season. It’s a brand new group of girls out here, a lot of them never played at the varsity level.” 

Llamas had three walks with four runs scored and one RBI for Watsonville in a 15-1 crushing victory against Gonzales High in the teams’ league and regular season finale May 8. 

The ‘Catz had an 11-1 record in the Mission Division—the second highest tier within the PCAL. They finished ahead of Carmel (9-3), King City (8-4), Pacific Grove (8-4), Monte Vista Christian, Gonzales and Santa Catalina.

“I’m very, very, very happy for them because they’ve always had the talent, but it wasn’t always in the key spots that you needed,” Watsonville head coach Pete Legorreta said.  

Legorreta brought in freshman phenom Esperanza Sigala to help fill roles in the infield, sophomore Mia Espinoza has stepped up as a solid catcher and senior left fielder Kiana Perreira—a transfer student from Gilroy. They also have some speed with freshman Taylor Alves. 

“I’m happy for our team, I’m happy that they met goals and I’m happy that they never went south,” Legorreta said. “They made lemonade the whole year.”

A league championship also guarantees Watsonville a berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs and the chance for a third section title—winning Division I titles in 2017 and 2021. 

“It was good to come back out here and get a lot of wins and see the team actually come together and bond over not just softball, but just become friends as one,” Llamas said. “It shows that hard work paid off after all those hours of practice. It was exciting.”

It wasn’t an easy road, though. 

Llamas had a rocky start to her season after she was forced to sit out with a quad injury. She took the role of assistant coach from time to time, but it was still painful to watch her teammates play a game that she really loves.

“Just seeing them being able to ball out there and not be able to help the team in crucial situations, it really hurt me,” Llamas said. “When I came back out here, I knew I had to make an impact. If that just be by example or making diving catches or just getting on base somehow. To me, playing out here is everything and that injury just took it away.”

It was just Llamas who had to sit out. The ‘Catz were also missing sophomore Audrina Gonzalez (injured hand) and Perreira, who was ineligible until April.   

Llamas said apart from a lot of hard work, a big factor was having the younger players get more experience under their belts. She mentioned the key to success was also establishing team captains who could lead by example. 

“That’s what I’m a big believer in, just showing by example, not vocalizing it,” Llamas said. “I think just having everyone not think that they’re on a better level. This time we were at an equal playing field.”

Sophomore starting pitcher Amelia Martinez said the team captains—Llamas and senior Julia Maldonado—pushed them harder than ever and held the players accountable for everything. 

“And they’re just really good role models on and off the field,” Martinez said.

Maldonado had two doubles with five RBIs and three runs scored in Thursday’s win against Gonzales. 

Martinez mentioned the upperclassmen also prevent the younger players from getting down on themselves too much, which has changed the team chemistry.

The ‘Catz’s standout hurler came in this season a bit more seasoned after spending a season against some of the best hitters in the section.

“It just made me mentally stronger in a lot of ways,” Martinez said. “I’ve been working really hard to not have a repeat [of last season]. I feel like it’s paid off.”

There’s no doubt Martinez is feeling much more comfortable in the circle. She finished with a 12-1 overall record, racking up 123 strikeouts and a 1.36 ERA in 18 appearances. 

Martinez said she’s excited for her first trip to the CCS playoffs and wants to see how far this group could really go.

Llamas will make her return to the postseason after the ‘Catz were bounced early in the D-II playoffs by Monterey High in 2022. Watsonville will find out who it plays after the CCS seeding meeting on May 13.

“I feel like it’s time to just go back out there, play the game, and see what competition is out there,” she said. “It’s just gonna be exciting to see other pitchers that we haven’t faced in a while.”

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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.


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