WATSONVILLE—Pajaro Valley High senior Emily Quezada tried out for the softball team last season after deciding she wanted to play the sport for the first time ever.
She was starting to pick up the game quite well until she was sidelined following an ankle injury on an attempt to slide into second base.
Quezada was happy the Grizzlies continued to improve as the season progressed but deep down inside she was heartbroken, especially after just having fallen in love with the sport.
“I wanted to get out of my seat and go help my teammates, just be out there and play and have fun with everyone,” she said.
Quezada made a valiant return this season and took on one of the biggest roles for the Grizzlies as their starting pitcher. She made her debut in the circle against Rancho San Juan High in non-league action on March 3.
“It was really nerve-racking but also really exciting,” she said. “I think it went pretty good.”
It was quite the rehab process for Quezada, who needed surgery that led her to being in a cast, then into a boot and eventually an ankle brace. Despite the injury, she still attended games to root for her teammates and kept in touch with Pajaro Valley manager Shelley Chavez.
During the offseason, Quezada brought up the idea of pitching for the Grizzlies. She watched a lot of college softball and training videos on the basic mechanics.
“Pitching is a really hard position to play because it drains you physically and mentally,” she said. “I would get frustrated when my pitches wouldn’t come out good. As time went on I had to learn to calm myself down and just focus on my mechanics, and keep pushing myself.”
Chavez was fully onboard with the move after learning her new pitching prospect was working her way up. She immediately noticed that Quezada had a great spin on the fastball along with a good grip, yet she’s still a little shy landing on that ankle.
“She’s healthy, it’s just a little nerve-racking,” Chavez said.
Quezada is still working on her release and focusing on the changeup along with a couple of other pitches that she hopes to display as the season moves forward.
“For somebody who’s never played the sport and then has never pitched, and then taught herself the basic mechanics of pitching while she’s in a cast, it’s pretty impressive,” Chavez said.
Other key contributors include senior first baseman Clara Garcia and senior catcher Valeria Munguia, who were named the team captains for the Grizzlies.
The rest of the upperclassmen includes seniors Marlin Ruiz, Alejandra Lopez, Crystal Guerrero, Rubi Lopez and Rocio Jimenez, and junior Josie Chacon-Castro.
Sophomores Elena Barrone, Nathan Carbajal, Katie Hernandez, Aidan McCrillis, Ariana Roman and freshman Olivia Contreras are the future of Pajaro Valley, but they have already made an impact.
Contreras is another player that had never stepped on the field but was able to adapt to the game quickly. She recorded an RBI in her very first at-bat.
Quezada remembers when she wanted to join the softball team as a freshman and it was her shyness that prevented her from having the courage to show up to tryouts.
It wasn’t until one of her cousins finally encouraged her to sign up that she did. Quezada is now attempting to do the same by pushing others with similar thinking, yet intimidated to try out.
“Just do it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid, don’t hold back…if you believe in yourself you will be able to do it.”
Chavez is glad she has players who have been able to learn on the fly, yet she wonders how much more talented they would be if they could’ve started playing at a younger age.
Her goal is to keep spreading the word on campus that a softball program does exist and those with little to no experience can still join the team to have fun.
“All the girls from MVPs to first-year girls, they’re all an equal part of the team and they have a great time,” Chavez said. “Win or lose, rain or shine, they’re laughing and smiling.”
However, there are times when the Grizzlies will have to buckle down. Chavez told the players she’s going to stop nitpicking their batting mechanics and they have to figure out what works for them, including their own style.
“It’s nice watching them swing at the ball, then step out of the box to take a second to think ‘What am I doing, what happened there?’ and they’re really learning the game,” Chavez said.
Moving forward, her biggest expectation is being able to get the chance to train a lot more and teach them the game so they’re comfortable enough to do well.
There’s been instances when practice gets rained out and they’ll still get together at somebody’s yard or at a school nearby to practice in the mud. Overall, the Grizzlies continue to improve on a daily basis no matter the circumstances.
“We have a ton of potential on the team,” Chavez said.
The Grizzlies are currently 0-2 and will begin Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division play at Rancho San Juan on Monday at 4pm.