Carissa Sdao learned a valuable lesson a year ago in helping Central Valley to its first state Class 4A fastpitch softball tournament appearance.
“There are great teams at state – the best of the best,” the senior pitcher/outfielder said. “But what makes state special are the teams that keep going back again and again.”
Sdao and her eight senior teammates are determined to put CV in that second category and took a big step toward that end by capturing a second straight district championship Thursday at Whitworth, knocking off Mead, 2-0.
The Bears scored a run in the second inning on an RBI-single by Tia Pau, then added an insurance run in the sixth to back Carli Riordan’s three-hitter in a nail-biting district title game.
But it wasn’t easy. Mead’s Hannah Beloved also hurled a three-hitter and Riordan worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning to preserve the shutout.
“We looked at it this way: We could just go out there and do whatever it took to win that game or else face the fact that we would have a tougher road to state and have to come back and play another game Friday,” Sdao said. “It meant losing a day off.”
Taking a day off hasn’t been an incentive for the Lady Bears this season. Not after getting that first taste of playing in a state tournament.
“I remember thinking after we walked off the field that the best part of playing at state for the first time was that I was going to get to go to school on that next Monday and have people ask me what it was like to play at state,” she said. “No one had ever done that at CV before.”
And then began the task of getting back into the tournament.
“As a team, I think we were all determined to get better, especially with our hitting, after last year,” Sdao said. “Personally, I was just determined that I would be the girl who worked her butt off to get better and get back there. I wasn’t going to be the girl sitting on the couch eating potato chips.”
The prospect of spending her final season on the bench, too, provided some extra incentive.
“Our coach (Joe Stanton) tells us every year that it doesn’t matter that you’ve played for him in the past,” she said. “None of that makes any difference in this program. You have to earn your spot every year. You have to earn your spot in the lineup. The hardest thing I can think of would be to be a senior and have to sit on the bench and watch an underclassman play your spot. That sounds kind of cold, I know, but it keeps you working hard and it keeps you from taking anything for granted. You can’t do that.”
Sdao set to work improving her pitching and improving her conditioning for her senior season – her fourth on the CV varsity.
As a pitcher, Sdao is part of a potent 1-2 punch for the Bears. Riordan has a 9-2 record heading into next week’s regional tournament, Sdao is 7-1.
Besides giving the Bears the ability to send a relatively rested pitcher to the mound for every game, Sdao insists that pitching helps her at the plate.
“Every time I step in the batter’s box, I know what’s going through the pitcher’s mind,” she said. “I know what she’s thinking. I know what she’s going to try to do, what she’s going to throw because I throw the same pitches and do the same thing she does.
“I know when the roles are reversed that the toughest hitter to face is the one who just stands in there and is so confident that they can hit whatever you can throw at them. That confidence is unsettling. You have to just do what you can and then tip your hat to them.”