Gilroy High softball coach Bria DeLorenzo acknowledges she’s almost in a dream scenario. As the coach of a team filled with talented and hard-working players who have a team-first attitude, DeLorenzo knows this situation doesn’t come around too often. That is why the Mustangs are seemingly primed to not only make a strong run for their first league championship in years, but a Central Coast Section title as well.
“This year from the very beginning, we knew we had a special team,” DeLorenzo said. “The girls were ready from game one.”
Were they ever. Gilroy entered the week at 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division. With junior ace Gianna Vanni and a stable of precious freshmen pitchers in Alysa Gutierrez, Sabrina Lopez, Kaitlyn Martinez and Savannah Wilson, the Mustangs are not lacking for talent in the circle.
In fact, they’ve got top-notch players at pretty much every position. The scary part? Gilroy’s roster is dominated by freshmen and juniors—there is only one senior and one sophomore on the team—meaning should everyone return next season, the Mustangs are positioned for a dominating run.
“Right now our eye is on this year and what we need to do to take care of business,” said DeLorenzo, a Gilroy High graduate. “We’ve got a lot of options pitching-wise, offensively and defensively. It’s something we haven’t seen in a few years.”
The team’s lone senior—catcher Makenna Weiler—is in her third season as the team captain.
“She is the anchor and leader of our team,” DeLorenzo said.
Gilroy lost just one starter from last year’s squad—the shortstop—but junior Annabelle Gutierrez has done a magnificent job of stepping in and not only filling the position but making a huge impact.
“Annabelle’s glove is as good as it gets at shortstop,” DeLorenzo said. “She’s worked really hard to own that position.”
Sophomore Abby Clark, who was the starting pitcher last year, is back at her strongest position in center field this season. Junior first baseman Christina Chavez hits third in the lineup and freshman Lauryn Yslava hits cleanup and is in left field. Freshman Malia Mah has been doing well at third base, while junior right fielder/designated player Savanah Castro has been potent offensively through last week.
Junior Vanessa Zozaya has been solid at second base, while Vanni has been effective in bending but not breaking.
“Vanni has got speed and movement, and she can do it all,” DeLorenzo said.
Weiler loves the dynamics of the team, and said the environment allows everyone to continually improve.
“If we correct each other, it’s all constructive criticism,” said Weiler, who has made a verbal commitment to play for Menlo College. “We’re all here to help each other out, and it’s actually really cool to see because I’ve known a lot of these girls my whole life. It’s great when you see everyone working hard not just in practice, but outside of practice as well.”
Said DeLorenzo: “Each girl understands their role on the team and will do what it takes to help the team succeed, because they know having that team-first mentality is the only way to get that crown.”
Weiler plays a key role in the team’s chemistry, and takes the captain’s role seriously. Weiler said she wants to inspire others and help them achieve their potential, while also communicating well with Vanni. The two have known each other for several years, and when they first met Vanni would call Weiler to catch for her before games or for practice.
Besides Weiler, Gilroy has three other players who have made verbal commitments to play in college. The list includes Mah (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo), Chavez (Fresno State) and Annabelle Gutierrez (Weber State).
Gilroy had an excellent result on March 19, when it lost to CCS power Valley Christian, 2-1. Vanni was on point and allowed just one earned run. The Mustangs scored their run in the top of the third inning. Zozaya hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a Weiler groundout and scored on a Clark single.
“After that our defense and pitching really shut them down,” DeLorenzo said. “We were able to threaten in the sixth and seventh, and were one hit or productive at-bat shy of pushing that final run through.”