WATSONVILLE — Jessica Rodriguez recorded at least 20 wins for the second straight season.
Her path to those victories, however, was very different from a year ago.
“I was pitching to contact, letting my defense make plays for me and trusting in my teammates,” Rodriguez said.
Focused on building up her mental toughness and working the inside of the plate, Watsonville High’s star junior pitcher did not put up the gaudy strikeout numbers of a year ago, but the end result was just as good — or maybe even better.
The coaches of the Monterey Bay League Gabilan division said as much, naming Rodriguez the division’s top pitcher for the second straight season.
“I really worked on my personal goals this year,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to added some speed and fix my drop ball… I felt like I had some bumps along the way, but toward the end of the season things started to even out.”
According to the stats kept on MaxPreps.com, the UNLV-committed hurler posted the second lowest earned run average (0.58) in the Central Coast Section and she also notched the fifth most strikeouts (185). Her 20 wins were also second most in the CCS.
Yet, it wasn’t her stats that impressed head coach Scott Wilson.
“She really started to understand how to approach each batter individually and why we were throwing different pitches in certain situations,” Wilson said. “She could add a little bit of speed to her pitches over the next few months, but the biggest aspect of her development from here on is going to be in the mental department.”
Rodriguez’s brilliance was apparent during the final stretch of Watsonville’s league season. She allowed just one run over the last five games to lead the Wildcatz to a share of the MBL-Gabalian championship.
Watsonville finished tied with San Benito High at 9-3. The ‘Catz had a 23-4 overall record, and advanced to the CCS Open Division Semifinals, where they fell to the eventual champion, St. Francis of Mountain View.
Rodriguez said she was sad to see the season come to an end, as she was just starting to hit her stride in the circle.
“I was just getting into my groove,” Rodriguez said. “I was getting into my zone. My mechanics felt as good as they had all season.”
Rodriguez also hit .377 at the plate with 29 hits, 17 scored runs and four doubles. Along with her Most Outstanding Pitcher of the Year award, she earned a spot on the All-MBL-Gabilan First Team with teammates Juliana Wilson, Anastacia Alba and Savanah Quintana
Wilson — coach Wilson’s daughter — had an historic season for Watsonville. Among players in the CCS, the junior catcher finished second in RBIs (50) and slugging percentage (1.303), third in home runs (11), fourth in hits (53), and fifth in batting average (.646) and doubles (13). She also had a hit in 27 straight games.
“I think if you asked her what her stats were, she wouldn’t be able to tell you what they are,” Wilson said of his daughter, a UCF-commit. “That’s how she approaches the game. She doesn’t care much about the stats. She just wants to win.”
Alba, a freshman outfielder, finished second in triples (4), third in home runs (9) and RBIs (36) and fifth in batting average (.476) in the MBL-Gabilan.
Quintana, a senior shortstop, was second in the league in on-base percentage (.576) while batting in the leadoff spot.
Gilroy High senior Makenna Weiler was named the MBL-Gabilan’s Most Valuable Player after helping the Mustangs to a second-place finish in the league.
Watsonville also had freshman utility player Maya Guerrero and sophomore outfielder Angelina Heredia make the MBL-Gabilan Second Team, while freshman pitcher Daisy Ortiz earned a spot on the Sportsmanship Award.
Monte Vista Christian junior pitcher Samantha Baer and North Monterey County High seniors Nicole Garcia and Michaele Galli were named to the MBL-Pacific division First Team.
Baer led the Mustangs in batting average (.508), hits (33), scored runs (18), RBIs (22), doubles (7) and home runs (7), as M.V.C. finished 7-16-1 overall and 4-8 in league action. She also had a 4.41 earned run average in the circle.
Garcia and Galli combined for 70 hits, 14 doubles and four home runs for the Condors, who finished 12-10 overall and 7-5 in league play.
M.V.C. won the Elgie Bellizio Sportsmanship Award.
North Salinas High junior Alyssa Allen was named the division’s M.V.P., her teammate, sophomore Sophia Gombos, shared Most Valuable Pitcher honors with Alvarez High sophomore Stephanie Vasquez and Alisal High’s Lizette Paredes was named the Coach of the Year.
M.V.C seniors Sarah Kashani, Mariah Gonzalez and Isabel Hollingsworth all made the MBL-Pacific Second Team.
N.M.C. juniors Deborah Guzman and Malorie Ramirez also mad the division’s second team.
Three locals made the Sportsmanship team: Sam Valdivia (Pajaro Valley), Syerra Montes (M.V.C.) and Sandra Almanza (N.M.C.).