Gilroy catcher Andrea Alvarez hit a home run against Christopher on May 8. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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Softball teams from Gilroy and Christopher high schools came together with members of the community for the annual Sarah Villar Memorial Game on May 8. 

The event honors and memorializes Villar, a former Gilroy softball pitcher and graduate who was killed by a drunk driver as she was walking with her fiancé, Tayler Schmitt, and her dog in Hollister in June 2021. Villar, then 32, was a pediatric therapist for Young Interventions, an early intervention and family support agency. Schmitt survived with injuries.

“This is something we started three years ago,” Gilroy coach Dusty Lester said. “With the help of (former Gilroy coach) Bria DeLorenzo and (Christopher coach) Amanda Tellez, we decided to start this memorial game. It is the third year and we always play Christopher. It is to honor Sarah and what she brought to the community. She was a super kid, always there for someone else.”

Before the game, both teams warmed up in special T-shirts commemorating Villar and the game, in Gilroy blue or Christopher teal. Villar’s jersey number 5 was painted in chalk behind the pitcher’s circle.

As it turned out, the first batter of the game, Christopher’s Jaelynn Corona, wears number five for the Cougars. Additionally, Corona is a transfer from Hollister.

Tellez was a teammate and childhood friend of Villar. 

Lester’s daughter, Casey, now an assistant coach with the Mustangs, was mentored by Villar, and a part of the team that conceptualized and put together this game to honor Villar. The meaningfulness of the day was foremost in everyone’s mind.

“It’s memorable and honorable,” Gilroy starting pitcher Jocelyn Ta said. “It means a lot.”

The game results were secondary. In the contest, Gilroy, on its way to the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs in their best season in over a decade, won 10-0. Christopher is also having a fine campaign, as they reached the CCS Division IV playoffs, the first postseason bid for the Cougars since 2019.

Gilroy’s offense was humming. In the bottom of the first, Adi Hulbert singled and Drea Alvarez smashed a two-run homer over the left field fence.

“We were really excited for today,” Alvarez said, referring to the special nature of the memorial game. “The pitch was mid mid and I just drove through it. It felt really good.”

In the second inning, Mustangs first baseman Bella Sousa singled and center fielder Dani Wilson doubled up the left-center field gap to make it 3-0. In the fourth, Ta doubled to left and Sousa blasted a shot over the left-field fence. Gilroy added more in a rally that featured doubles from Alvarez and Bam Mendoza.

Gilroy star pitcher Lele Yslava gave circle duties to hurler Ta, who was sharp.

“I felt pretty good,” Ta said. “I got a lot of popups. Threw a lot of inside pitches. We were able to hit at valuable moments today. We’re clicking. We are working together at crucial moments.”

Gilroy won a co-championship of the competitive Blossom Valley Athletic League, Mt. Hamilton Division. It is the first league title for a Mustang team since 1998. The Mustangs ended the regular season at 21-6, 14-2 in BVAL play.

“Jocelyn did a good job and if we hit, we’re in every game,” Lester said. “Hitting is contagious. I’m proud of the girls. This is one of the best teams we’ve ever had.”

Melissa Lugo and Isabella James got hits for Christopher. The season has really come together for the Cougars, after an unsettled start. Christopher finished its regular season at 13-9, 10-2 in BVAL, Santa Teresa Division play, second behind Lincoln.

“We started off with a lot of ineligible girls and a transfer and other issues,” Tellez said. “They became eligible and we’ve turned it around from there. Before this game, we had a seven-game winning streak. Offensively, we’ve been doing well. We have three lefties, which helps. We have two pitchers, in Danielle Keller and Chanel Lucio, and we’ve improved our defense. Overall, our whole game has improved.”

Flowers were handed out at the gate as spectators entered the May 8 game. Both teams had pink ribbons for their hair. Coaches on both sides wore the special Sarah Villar T-shirts throughout the game. It was a special day to honor a special person.

“I told them that as long as I am coach here, we’ll have this memorial game,” Lester said. “This game wasn’t about the softball or the score. It was to honor and remember Sarah.”

Not forgotten

After graduating from Gilroy High, Sarah Villar attended Sonoma State on an athletic scholarship and then on to graduate school at San Diego State. She became a Doctor of Physical Therapy. The Gilroy Foundation has set up a yearly Sarah Villar Scholar Athlete Scholarship to be awarded to a female graduating student from Gilroy or Christopher who is set to enter college. More details can be found at

Christopher pitcher Chanel Lucio throws a pitch against Gilroy on May 8. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
Gilroy’s Bella Souse recorded her first career home run in a 10-0 win over the Christopher Cougars May 8. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
Christopher senior infielder Jaelynn Corona throws to first for the out against Gilroy in the Sarah Villar Memorial Game May 8. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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