New season, brand new attitude

Katrina Villa

If a 3-2 record doesn’t seem like an extraordinary start to the
season, just ask the Gavilan softball players about last year.
If a 3-2 record doesn’t seem like an extraordinary start to the season, just ask the Gavilan softball players about last year.

“If we won,” captain and Live Oak grad Kristine Miles said, “it was because of a miracle.”

Returning outfielder Katrina Villa?

“Half the team,” she said, “didn’t even know how to play.”

Fellow Gilroy High alum Vicki Velasquez?

“It was just frustrating,” the shortstop recalled. “Most of the time we expected to lose.”

And most of the time they did – winning just eight games and losing a few dozen.

So head coach Tim Kenworthy and assistant Bruce Nicholson hit the road recruiting – scouring high school and summer games all over the area.

For a team that had no returning starters and occasionally played with just nine players in 2004, the net result was a freshman class of 10.

The group includes five San Jose natives, along with Dalila Casas (Hollister) and three Live Oak products – Amanda Jackson, Justine McDonald and Megan Smart.

Unlike last season, when the coaches got desperate and invited Gavilan students who had never even played softball, this year’s newcomers are all veterans of the sport.

“These girls are used to playing competitive ball,” Kenworthy said. “We got some serious ballplayers.”

They’re serious, all right.

For the first time in school history, there was enough interest in the program to field a “fall ball” team, which traveled under the name of Central Coast Plumbing and competed against players from other schools.

“It was a really good experience,” said Miles, last season’s team MVP. “Even the De Anza coach came up to us and said, ‘this is not the same Gavilan team I’m used to seeing.’

“People we used to play would laugh at us.”

It might be the Rams getting the last laugh this year.

On paper and judging from the start, this should be the best Gavilan team since at least the mid-1980s – the last time the middling program finished above .500.

Although only his fourth year, Kenworthy said this is “clearly” his best squad.

For one, the pitching staff – newcomers Gina Botkins (Mt. Pleasant), Destinee Powers (Oak Grove) and Courtney Colianna (Leigh) – is deep and talented, “which we haven’t ever had here,” Kenworthy noted.

The defense and the depth of the lineup are also improved.

“The biggest difference, though,” he added, “is the girls’ focus and determination and dedication.

“It’s their willingness to learn and their intensity.”

Before the season started last weekend, the team held several meetings to establish a set of goals.

On the list is a winning record, a good showing in the Coast Conference and a win over longtime power West Valley, which the Rams haven’t even scored against in years.

Gavilan gets the first of three chances against its longtime nemesis with a Tuesday home game at 3pm.

“This is way better than last year,” Velasquez said. “We weren’t as serious then. There weren’t really any rules or anything. This time we’ve got team leaders and we’ve established some goals.

“Hopefully some good things are gonna happen this season.”