On May 17, the Turlock High School softball team saw its season ended at the hands of the Whitney High School Wildcats in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division playoffs. Since then, three Turlock Bulldogs have not let the loss faze them as they have continued to compete throughout the summer with their traveling team.
Abbey Harrington, Angie Valenzuela and Ayla Lacerda all played this summer for the Atwater-based Valley Rage fastpitch team. Valenzuela competed with the team for just over four years while Harrington and Lacerda joined the team just under two years ago. While the team has had a lot of success during this time, 2022 has proven to be the pinnacle with this particular trio.
Over the 4th of July weekend, the Rage won second place in the National Triple Crown Softball Tournament in Colorado, which saw 38 teams from across the country compete. At Nationals, they played 12 games, winning their first 11. The team ended up dropping their final match, their third match of a triple title without a break to rest or eat in between.
Two weeks later, the Rage were determined to clinch first place as they traveled to Reno to compete in the 18U Softball World Series, a prestigious tournament featuring 49 top teams from across the country. The Rage went an impressive 9-0 which was good enough to clinch the championship.
“This season has been absolutely amazing,” Harrington said. “I’m newer to the team, but since I’ve been with Rage, all I’ve witnessed is success. Even then, it’s probably the best season we’ve ever had. .
After all of the tournaments and games this summer, the Rage have reached a dominating record of 39-5.
Reflecting on their dominant season and league campaign, Valenzuela agreed with Harrington that 2022 has been their most successful. Nonetheless, she explained that success with their travel team isn’t just about wins, but about the experience and development of local softball players.
“It’s not about wins or losses, it’s about progress,” Valenzuela said. “Every tournament and every game we learn something new. Since I’ve been in this team, these girls are winners.
Harrington and Valenzuela were seniors last season with the Bulldogs, graduating from THS in May. Meanwhile, Lacerda will only be entering its second year. The idea that Rage gives her additional opportunities to develop her skills, especially her leadership skills, is particularly important to her.
“I realize Angie and Abbey won’t be here next year, so that means I’ll have to step up,” Lacerda said. “It’s going to be tough without them, but I’m here to get that extra experience.”
Now high school graduates, not only will Valenzuela and Harrington leave their high school and travel ball teams, they will soon leave the area to pursue college careers. Valenzuela was recruited by Eureka College in Illinois and will leave this weekend. Although she’s a bit closer, Harrington will head to UC Davis in September as she attempts to walk with the Aggies softball team.
With the tight-knit group ready to part ways, they make sure to maintain their bond with each other and with their teams.
“We’re always going to stick together and be a family,” Lacerda said. “At the same time, I am delighted that the new girls are coming so that we can start a bigger family and work hard together. We want to continue everything we have done here.
The trio hopes their success between Turlock High and Valley Rage can inspire future softball players in the area. Due to the limited amount of time players have on a school team or high school team, Harrington believes that all players should play with no regrets and the desired results will then come naturally.
“Hopefully one of the biggest lessons people can learn from us is to be positive and stay connected. Some of my teammates are my ride-or-dies. They’re with you for the experience and you only have a short time, so make the most of it. Savor those wins, those mistakes, those losses. Don’t hold back because you never know when your last game is going to be,” Harrington said.
Lacerda and Valenzuela nodded in agreement, knowing full well that that mindset was why their 2022 seasons lasted so much longer and why they’re walking away as softball World Series champions as high school students.