Charlie Pikas had an opportunity to coach in the inaugural Paul Leonardo Memorial softball showcase.
The Pacheco softball coach had to decline because of a previously planned vacation, but his players’ reaction to the Central California Conference vs. Western Athletic Conference all-star game told him all he needed to know.
“The kids loved it,” Pikas said. “Everyone I talked to said it was an amazing deal. Joe Leonardo put on an amazing show and in just its first running, it’s already supposed to be one of the best of these all-star games around.”
Pikas was sold. When Leonardo presented the option of co-coaching along with El Capitan’s Chela Moreno in the 2016 version of the game, he jumped at it. The second Paul Leonardo Memorial softball showcase will be held Wednesday at Livingston High School. The game will start at 5 p.m. with a home run derby to be held before that.
The two squads will be made up of the all-league selections for each conference. Tickets are $5, with proceeds going to scholarships that will be handed out after the game.
“I’m excited to coach these kids you spend a lot of time figuring out how to score against or how to get out,” Pikas said. “Not that there’s going to be a lot of coaching. With kids this talented, you just put them out there and let them do their thing.
“I feel like there’s a little more pressure that comes from coaching this game. The main thing is you want to make sure it’s worth the kids’ while. You want to get everyone in and give them a chance to show what they can do. At the same time, you’re trying to win.”
Pikas and company have the added pressure of defending last year’s WAC victory.
He’ll have no shortage of stars to call upon to try to do so. Included in the group is last year’s hero Rayohna Sagapolu (Ceres), who provided a walk-off, two-run single in the 7-6 victory. She’ll have plenty of familiar faces around her with six Ceres players participating, including league MVP Mahlena O’Neal and Pitcher of the Year Callie Nunes.
Led by co-MVP Ali Waltman, Los Banos will have the most WAC representatives, with seven. Other notable stars expected to attend include Cassie Gasper and McKenzie Schumacher of El Capitan, and Sammy Jacquez (Pacheco).
CCC coach Robert Santistevan of Atwater High expects another competitive showing.
He’ll try to avenge last year’s loss with a loaded squad that includes league MVP and California Softball Player of the Year Madilyn Nickles (Merced).
She’ll be joined by six other Bears, including first-teamers Rheanne Lewis, Monique Collins, Alazaya Landeros and Pheobe Arista. Other notable stars include Offensive POY Alanah Laupua (Pitman), Brittany Massa (Atwater), Marissa Bertuccio (Golden Valley) and Selena Sandoval (Buhach Colony).
One notable absence for the CCC will be Pitcher of the Year Cheyenne Mahy of Atwater, who will be out of the state.
“The whole thing is a blast,” Santistevan said. “It’s a huge honor to be coaching again. There was a great turnout last year, and the main thing I took away was that every girl had a good time.
“We ran a different lineup out there every single inning to make sure everyone got playing time, and I think we’ll do that again. It’s supposed to be for fun, but once the girls get out there in front of that big crowd, everyone wants to show what they can do.
“Last year’s game was very competitive, and I don’t see this one being any different.”