The Berkeley High School (BHS) varsity softball team is optimistic as they begin their 2019 season. They hope to reclaim the league title that they won in 2017 and make it further in the North Coast Section (NCS) tournament.
The team struggled a bit last season but hopes to bounce back this season with the help from new players and a stronger sense of team unity. “[Our] main [goal] is to figure out how this new team functions at its best, and how every player can contribute to the team’s success,” said shortstop and pitcher Dixie Lewis. “I’m really excited to create a strong bond with the new girls,” she continued.
For the past few years, the team has hovered just below a .500 winning percentage, with the notable exception of 2017, when they had a 19-4 record and won the West Alameda County Conference championship. Even in this incredibly successful season, however, the girls failed to win a single game in the NCS tournament. In fact, you need to trace back over a decade to find the last time that the girls won an NCS game. After a disappointing 9-11-1 record last year, the team is looking for ways to improve so that they can be more competitive within their conference and during NCS. “Our team last year struggled a bit especially [compared to] the team we had when I was a freshman, which was phenomenal,” said Lewis. “I hope we can play more as a team this year and less as individuals because that definitely held our team back last year.”
This year, teamwork is key for the team. “I think we could improve by making sure we’re communicating with each other on the field,” said senior outfielder Annie Davenport. Head coach Jason Kaneko said that he hopes the team can learn to work together more quickly than they did last year. Each player is great as an individual, but “They are exponentially better as a team,” Kaneko said.
The team also hopes to improve this year with the help of new players. “We have two new, really good freshmen who I think will definitely contribute to the team,” said Davenport. According to Lewis, “Both are amazing players with great energy.”
The Jackets started the season strong by defeating Miramonte 10-0 in their first game. “We did what we were supposed to do,” said Kaneko. “We had great energy throughout the game and it was a great way to start the season,” said outfielder and first baseman Maddie Kaneko.
The team’s ability to execute the goals and strategies they had been working on in their first game sets a promising tone for the season. They were successful at communicating with each other to work effectively as a team. “Everyone was able to contribute,” said Lewis. “We did really well taking advantage of the other teams’ mistakes,” she continued. This was a non-conference game, and Kaneko added that they “still have a lot of work to do to be one of the top teams in [their] conference.”
Overall, Kaneko is optimistic about the team’s prospects. “I’m very happy with this group,” he said. “We have two solid freshmen, two very talented sophomores, six awesome juniors, and two seniors that are four-year lettermen, and really amazing softball players.”
If the team’s first two games are an indication of what’s to come, then there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about this season. The girls’ next home game is Friday, March 22 against Castro Valley High School.