See Whitney softball players celebrate Sac-Joaquin championship
Their softball season of promise and joy took a sudden detour for the worse on Friday night in Stockton, an 11-0 shelling to the defending tournament champions.
Then the Whitney High School girls regrouped with a quick skull session of teammates and coaches, followed by trek to the restroom at Arnaiz Softball Complex – and then some sing-song cheer.
That is a difference between girl student-athletes and boys. The guys might have been inclined to yank urinals out of the walls after a crunching defeat like that. Girls?
“We went in, fixed our hair and got that game behind us,” senior Mazie Macfarlane said.
Reset and refocused, the Wildcats of Rocklin unleashed on Tracy, ripping two first-inning home runs en route to a 16-6 rout to capture the program’s first Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship.
And then there was more chants and singing, coaches included. This isn’t just the best softball outfit in the region, stretching from Yuba City down past Turlock, as far east as Shingle Springs and as far west as Fairfield. It’s also the most giddy.
“They’re such a loose, funny, happy group,” Whitney coach Mike Mello said. “It’s so wonderful to have a dugout like we have. They’re all best friends. They hang out.
“After the first game, that loss, the girls said ‘we got this’ and then we absolutely destroyed Tracy. We were not upset with the 11-0 loss. We know what sort of team we have. They earned it, 100 percent.”
Whitney (26-6) earned it all season amid a taxing schedule. It opened the season with a 4-3 win at eight-time D-I section champion Sheldon, won the best league in the section in the Sierra Foothill League, and then went 5-1 in the double-elimination section tournament. The Wildcats ascended to The Bee’s No. 1 ranking for the first time and played the part.
Not bad for a program that had never reached a section final in any division since the school opened in Placer County in 2003. It took the arrival of Mello, the coach who isn’t always so mellow, and five impact freshman to boost the program to new heights.
Among the seniors are twins Mazie and Makenzie Macfarlane, Sierra Bedrin, Clair Stover and Ashley Williams, leader of the sing-song dugout pack. Makenzie batted .489 and Mazie .533. Junior ace Nia Trinidad went 16-3 and Bedrin 8-2.
Junior slugger Montanah Hermosillo clubbed eight home runs, including one against Tracy in the capper. Makenzie Macfarlane hit a three-run shot to highlight the first inning.
The Macfarlanes are versatile, able to play any position from infield, outfield to catcher. They are headed to Utah State on scholarship. Their father, Matt, was an athlete at Bear River High in the early 1990s, but this season has been a different sort of thrill ride. Mostly.
“Oh, it’s excruciating to watch games sometimes, but it’s fun, and they’ve had a great time,” Matt said.
Mello bound it all together. He’s 57, a skater from his 1970s youth in Santa Clara who has dedicated his life the last 25 years to coaching softball at all ages. He blew out his right knee from teenage skateboard tumbles – road rash – and proudly shows off his scars as a badge of honor.
Mello had shoulder length hair then, hip and cool. His mother worked at a hospital for 42 years, his father for nearly as long as a tile setter.
One of 11 children, Mello never stopped being a kid, or coaching them. He is old school who has embraced new-school values. He lets players listen to their own choice of music at practice or before games, including some that makes him wince and wonder, “Those lyrics!”
“I’d rather put on the Temptations,” Mello said with a laugh. “I’m an old soul music guy. We just want to have a good time.”