The Hoopa Warriors were crowned Little 4 champions in softball with two games to spare on Friday afternoon, rolling to a comfortable doubleheader sweep over visiting South Fork, 17-0 and 10-0.
The league championship is the third straight for the program, dating back to 2018, and it likely would have been five straight had it not been for the pandemic.
“It means a great deal to these girls,” head coach Ryan Colegrove said. “The girls have been working hard for a long time, and they’ve been playing together for a long time.”
The Hoopa girls certainly left no doubt as to who is the best team in the Little 4 this season after a thoroughly dominating campaign.
Outside of a surprise loss at St. Bernard’s last week, the Warriors have outscored their opponents 149-13 in their nine league wins, putting up an average of 16.5 runs a game.
Last weekend’s defeat served as extra motivation for the players, who seemed determined to bounce back.
“The loss against St. Bernard’s was tough to swallow,” Colegrove said. “And they came to practice (this week) ready to go. They didn’t like that.”
After the defeat the coaches put an emphasis on playing a little more aggressive and getting ahead of the ball more, both offensively and defensively, and the players responded with two doubleheader sweeps in just four days, where they outscored St. Bernard’s and South Fork 65-4.
Junior Tatianna Colegrove was instrumental in Friday’s sweep and pitched both wins, including a no-hitter in the nightcap.
Tatianna struck out 18 over the two games and gave up seven walks, while also finishing with a pair of hits in each game.
Senior Savannah Colegrove also had a big day at the plate and finished with three hits in each game, including a grand slam and a double in the opener.
The team’s only other senior, Bethany Masten. added two hits in game one and both seniors were honored before the game on senior day.
Savannah, who is the only current Hoopa player to have played on the 2019 league and NCS championship team, has been a pivotal presence all season long in the pitcher’s circle, defensively and at the plate.
“The team is confident with her in the circle,” Ryan Colegrove said. “Just the presence she brings to the field. She has a really strong mental game.”
Masten, according to the head coach, has been a defensive leader on the team as one of the Warriors’ two catchers.
The Bibancos twins, Jewely and Diamond both also have played key roles in the team’s success.
“They hit the ball really hard,” Ryan Colegrove said of the twins. “They’re really strong.”
Diamond plays first base, while Jewely, who had a double in game two on Friday, splits time between catcher and third base.
Consistent hitter Nalani Colegrove added a hit in each game, while second baseman Nae-rew Martin also continued to impress with a base hit in game two and some more solid defense.
“She plays second base really well,” the head coach said of the sure-handed Martin, who makes hardly any errors, which is a remarkable stat for a middle infielder.
Nalani, meanwhile, has been hitting the ball well and is know for her work ethic at practice.
“She comes to practice and she’s definitely determined to get better,” the coach said.
Several of the team’s younger players have also played key roles this season, including freshman Hannah McCullough, who had a hit in game one on Friday.
Junior Renee Doolittle, sophomores Bella Valentine and Rianna Bain and freshman Roxie Robinson round out a talented league championship roster.
Al in all, it’s a tight-knit group and most of them have been playing together since they were very young.
“I appreciate the girls,” Ryan Colegrove said of her players, who are close friends on and off the field. “They get along really well and they have a very strong relationship, and I feel like they’re very dedicated to what they’re doing.”
Another key factor to the success of the 2022 team has been the coaching staff, with more assistants helping out this year than in some time.
“I really appreciate the coaches I have,” Ryan Colegrove said of her staff, which includes Amber McCovey-Billings, Floyd “Cowboy” Billings and Steve Valentine, each of whom brings something different to the table. “It’s so nice to be able to do so many other things with them.”
One of the Hoopa fans also wished to be quoted in the story.
“Jewely, will you go to prom with me?” said Gunner.