The Valencia softball team traveled to Bullhead City, Ariz. to play in the 2019 Dave Kops Tournament of Champions, a three-day competition that the Vikings have won three times before, back-to-back in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2011.
The Tournament of Champions features close to 50 of the best high school softball teams on the West Coast, with teams from four different states
“We are one of the first teams that have ever won it back-to-back. It’s the top teams in Southern California and top teams in Arizona and Nevada and New Mexico too,” said Valencia head coach Donna Lee. “It’s a pretty big tournament and it’s a barometer to see where you’re at before league starts.”
Valencia lost its first game on Thursday 11-3 to La Mirada, but rebounded on Friday with two wins in a doubleheader.
The Vikings defeated Winslow 18-3 in a morning game, then defeated Lakewood in thrilling fashion in an afternoon game, winning 4-3.
“It’s huge, it’s such a confidence booster. We didn’t play well yesterday. We scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, so we ended strong and knew we had take that fourth inning into today and the girls did that,” Lee said. “They never gave up, working hard and wanted to score every inning. They were playing Valencia softball today. Good defense, timely hitting and doing what they needed to do.”
Junior outfielder Macayla Paragas started things off with a single to center in the bottom of the first inning, then stole second base. She advanced to third on a passed ball and sophomore shortstop Emma Bramson brought her home on a single to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
The Lancers evened the score in the top of the second inning, then took a 3-1 advantage in the top of the fourth inning. Lakewood retired Valencia in order in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Vikes three more outs to make a comeback.
Junior pitcher Brianne Stone took over for junior Emma Montoya in the fifth and took care of business, leading to the bottom of the inning.
Freshman Akina Celentano reached first base by way of a Lakewood error, then sophomore Lani Paragas walked. Macayla Paragas reached base on a fielder’s choice as Celentano was thrown out at third.
With two on, Bramson stepped up to the plate and blasted a home run to give Valencia the lead and the win.
“It was an explosion in the dugout, we just all ran it out, it was awesome,” Lee said of Bramson’s home run. “I knew the second she hit it, it just kept traveling and traveling and I’m like yeah!”
The victory advanced the Vikings to the semifinals of the consolation championship bracket and they will play again on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. against Cypress.
While winning is certainly a top priority, Lee said that the annual trip to Arizona provides an opportune time for the team to grow closer together.
“It’s all about team chemistry, this is a tournament that really brings the girls together,” Lee said. “They get their fighting way and they have each other’s backs. That’s what it’s all about.”