It had to be a dream situation for a coach. Imagine, inheriting a softball team that has already won a championship and had several returning starters.
Or it could have become maddening for Stephanie Boshae, a 28-year-old single mom hired to be an assistant by then head coach Carlos Rodriguez in November, then given the head coaching job when Rodriguez decided to step down.
For Boshae, the 2016 season had a fairytale ending instead of being A Nightmare On Arroyo Street. The Eagles claimed a second straight City Section Division II championship by defeating South East of South Gate in the title game, 4-0, on May 21 at Cal State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson.
The season was not without pitfalls or trauma. Bossier had no seasoned catchers due to graduation and had to train two players, Diana Martin and Jasmine Maldonado, to handle the second most important position after pitcher. The Eagles took a hit midway through the season when sophomore Sunneray Velazquez, the main backup to starter Mia Macias was injured and senior Cristina Miranda — who had not pitched since the ninth grade — became the emergency No. 2 arm.
The biggest challenge for Boshae, though, was convincing her players — and parents and fans — that the job, her first as a head coach after six years as an assistant at Sylmar, was not beyond her capabilities.
“I must admit, coming into a program that had won a championship last year, I guess some people would say there is pressure,” said Boshae, who played softball at Cal State University Northridge, where she also got her degree. “But this is softball. This is the game I’ve been playing and coaching the past 20 years.
“I told the girls all season it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, it’s what what you do in the now and how you move forward. What you did last year doesn’t matter now. You still have to earn it, there’s a target on your back now, and the road’s gonna be a little tougher this year. But the girls understood, battled through, and here we are.”
The Eagles (18-11) finished third in the East Valley League (behind Division I teams Arleta and Poly) and were seeded third in Division II. More important, Boshae said, “by playoff time everybody knew their position, and every body developed chemistry in the infield and outfield. We all knew each other, and I knew how to best communicate with them.”
Chavez swept away Panorama and Los Angeles schools Roosevelt and Marshall in the early rounds to play South East (21-8-1), the top seed. And they got the kind of contest that would determine a worthy champion.
The game was scoreless for the first four innings; neither team could mount a meaningful threat against Macias or Jaguars sophomore Ieleen Guardado. There was a growing feeling that one run would be enough for either team to win.
It was South East that cracked. In the fifth, Chavez had the bases loaded with two out. The stage was set for Eagles sophomore second baseman Janelle Jimenez.
She hit a blooper toward center. Jaguars shortstop Andrea Vasquez, running full speed, had the ball bounce off her outstretched glove. The hit was officially ruled a double.
“I saw it come out of her glove. But I was just running,” Jimenez said. “It was just crazy. It was really shocking.”
The Eagles scurried around the bases as the Jaguars frantically tried to pick up the ball and minimize the damage. All three runners on base scored and Jimenez pulled into third. The relay throw from the outfield went to home plate and got away from the catcher. The plate was uncovered, so Jimenez scored as well.
Just like that, the score was 4-0. And it must have felt like 40-0 to South East, the way Macias was pitching.
“Her pitches have great velocity and break,” Boshae said. “This year the main focus was on her pitching mentality, because she’s young. But people are starting to hear about her. So we went over the mental aspect more. I was a pitcher myself so that was fun.”
South East had one last chance. The Jags loaded the bases themselves in the sixth, with two out. But Macias coaxed Karina Gomez to pop out to first, ending the threat.
“The game plan was to win every inning, and try to not let them score,” Macias said. “It did feel like one run would win it. But it was exciting.”
For Jimenez, who described the regular season as “stressful,” winning back-to-back championships was “a big accomplishment. I’m ecstatic.”
So was their coach. Because next year, no matter what happens, will not be the first year.