Gilroy’s Lela Yslava has had an outstanding season so far in the circle, including pitching a shutout April 10 (pictured) against Santa Teresa. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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It’s a fiercely competitive league race and Gilroy is leading a tight bunch with Willow Glen, Sobrato and Branham right behind. The Mustangs, with their best season since the 2010-11 team, are 9-2 in Blossom Valley Athletic League, Mt. Hamilton Division action, and 15-5 overall. Right on their heels are the Rams at 8-2, the Bulldogs at 8-3 and the Bruins at 7-3.

After a 1-2 start to the campaign, Gilroy has won 14 of 17 and outscored their opponents 121-38. In league play, they have won six of their last seven and scored 61 runs while allowing only eight. The offense leads the Mt. Hamilton Division with an average of 7.3 runs per game in league matches and 6.5 overall. 

One could also claim the pitching and defense are equally as strong.

The junior-laden team features several players who have been in the program since freshman year and many played together before that. Dani Wilson leads the offense with 29 hits in 63 at-bats—an amazing .469 average. Drea Alvarez is right there with her, hitting 26-for-57 with three homers and a .456 average. Pitcher Lele Yslava holds a superb 1.89 ERA.

“Lele (Yslava) always pitches well,” coach Dusty Lester said. “And our defense plays well. Hitting is contagious and down the line, that’s what is happening.”

Yslava is in the circle most games as the starting pitcher, with Alvarez at catcher. The infield features Lillyam Mendoza, Jennie Hernandez, Addie Hulbert and Jocelyn Ta. Outfielders are Jazmine Gonzalez, Wilson and Caitlyn Correia. Depth is provided by Bella Sousa, Jocelyn Mendoza, Leilany Martinez and Averi Peters.

“I’ve had Lele here since her freshman year,” Lester said. “In addition to pitching, she is hitting well, and same with my first baseman (Jocelyn Ta) and second baseman (Addie Hulbert). And I have girls on the bench who can play. I tell them that we are a team and I’ll try to get you in.”

The recent Gilroy roll includes league wins over Leland 11-1, Live Oak 6-0, Leigh 10-0 and Westmont 15-2. An early-season highlight included a solid split with PCAL Gabilan Division power Salinas, a 2-1 loss and a 9-4 win.

On a sunny afternoon at Santa Teresa on April 10, the Mustangs drilled the Saints 12-0 in a five-inning run-rule game. Santa Teresa was coming off a 2-0 victory over a Monterey team that was leading the powerful PCAL Gabilan Division. But Gilroy took charge early with a 5-spot in the top of the first and added to it later to demolish the home squad.

“We started off strong and ended strong,” Wilson said. “We have the pitching. We are working a lot on our hitting. We want to bunch hits and move runners along.”

Hits from Alvarez, Yslava, Hernandez and Gonzales, along with two walks, were part of the five-run tally in the first. In the fifth, Gilroy broke the game wide open. Yslava, Hernandez, Ta, Correia and Wilson ripped singles and Hulbert and Alvarez followed with hard-hit doubles. For the day, eight of the nine players in the batting order had one or more hits.

“You can’t take any game lightly,” Lester said. “They’re out to beat you. Our bats hit early. When we hit, we do pretty good. Lele did a good job hitting her spots. Our defense made plays. This is a statement win for us. We did everything right and they struggled.”

Yslava shut down the Saints, striking out four and allowing just one hit and a sole walk in a five-inning shutout. 

The defense sparkled behind her. Mendoza threw out a batter on a slow roller. Hernandez and Hulbert combined on several slick plays up the middle. In the fifth, Hernandez made a diving stop of a grounder that might get through and fired over to a stretching Ta at first for the out. And Yslava never allowed the Saints to get any rhythm.

“My drop was working,” Yslava said. “I was trying to work low in the zone. It was one of my best games.”

Expectations were mild at the start of the season. But the team has gelled and team members cite positive energy, support and backing of each other, and friendships off the field and on.

“We lost four seniors,” Alvarez said. “We didn’t know how good we would be. As the season (goes) along, we see it. We want to win league and go on in the playoffs.”

The schedule stiffens at this point. The Mustangs travel to Sobrato on Wednesday April 24 and host Branham on Friday April 26. Those games will go a long way in determining the league champion. After that, the Mustangs have their eye on the Central Coast Section playoffs.

Gilroy has reached the CCS playoffs the last four years, excepting Covid-impacted seasons. The 2017-18 team parlayed a 15-9-1 record into a four-game roll to take the CCS D1 title. The last two years, Gilroy lost their playoff opener in the D2 postseason. 

This year’s squad has the best winning percentage in more than a decade and has playoff dreams in mind for May.

“We want to get that ring,” Wilson said.

Gilroy High’s Andrea Alvarez has had an impressive season so far behind the plate as the Mustangs’ catcher. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
The Gilroy High softball team paused for a team photo after they dominated Santa Teresa on April 10. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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