The NorCal Classic has become a labor of love for Pacheco High softball coach Charlie Pikas.
The 14th year of the softball tournament will feature 52 varsity teams, playing at three different venues in Tracy beginning on Thursday and ending on Saturday. The teams are separated into four divisions with the Platinum, Diamond, Gold and Silver brackets.
Pikas says he spends a lot of time trying to make sure he puts each team into the right bracket.
“That’s probably what I spend most of the time on,” Pikas said. “I want to get as close as I can to getting each team into the right bracket. I want to make sure it’s competitive for everybody and I want to make sure everyone gets something out of the tournament.”
Pikas says he spends a lot of time online, checking Maxpreps to see how teams are doing. He also talks to coaches.
It’s one of the reasons many of the teams keep coming back each year.
Pikas started the tournament in 2004 while he was coaching at Merrill West in Tracy. He’s continued on as tournament director when he left for Los Banos and eventually Pacheco.
“I think that shows how much pride I take in the tournament because I can’t let it go,” Pikas said. “I started it when I was a coach at West and now I’m on my third school. A lot of the people in Tracy take care of the grunt work, working the gates and the field work. It’s a fundraiser for schools like Tracy, West, Kimball and Millennium. I stopped bringing my teams a few years ago so I could just be a tournament director.”
Pacheco does still play in the tournament. A scheduling conflict only allows Calaveras to play on the first day of the tournament so Pacheco will fill in and play the final two games for Calaveras in the tournament.
Atwater, Merced, Golden Valley, Buhach Colony, Hilmar, El Capitan, Los Banos, Mariposa, Gustine and Stone Ridge Christian will all participate in the tournament.
Atwater (11-2-1) is the only area team that will play in the top Platinum bracket. The bracket is filled with heavyweights like Clovis, Elk Grove, San Benito, Simi Valley, Tracy and East Union.
Falcons coach Robert Santisteven is looking forward to facing top competition.
“Oh absolutely,” Santisteven said. “We think we can hang. We’ve played in it before. They’re tough teams. We believe it forces our girls to step up another level.”
The tournament begins on Thursday with games taking place at the Tracy Softball Complex, West and Millennium.
Making out the schedule is another hurdle for Pikas when you have teams traveling from all over the state.
“Because we have so many teams traveling in, we try to let the teams staying in hotels to play on Friday and Saturday,” Pikas said. “Most of the teams that can bus in will play on Thursday and Saturday.”
Dos Palos softball continues to win
The Dos Palos softball team has won 15 consecutive games after winning the Kerman Tournament last week. The Broncos (17-2-1) went 5-0 in the tournament, outscoring their opponents 38 to 4 to winning the title.
The Broncos dominated the field with the strong pitching of Janessa Jasso and hot bats.
Jasso picked up five wins in the circle. The sophomore surrendered just two earned runs and 13 hits in 27 innings pitched. She struck out 52 hitters. Jasso threw a perfect game in the tournament opener against Corcoran in a 10-0 victory.
“She works hard to get ahead in the count and then she throws her junk,” said Dos Palos coach Irene Barrantes. “She does a good job of keeping batters off balance with her rise ball and changeup.”
Junior Payton Paz had a monster tournament at the plate. Paz went 5-for-15 with three home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs. Grace Schofield went 9-for-17 with five runs and 4 RBIs. Teya Vincent also went 7-for-14 with a home run, eight runs and three RBIs.
The Broncos hit five home runs in the tournament.
“We try to teach a short, compact swing,” Barrantes said. “We don’t want them to swing for the fences. Payton is just so powerful. We’re not teaching them to swing for home runs, but they’re hitting them.”