Village News Reporter
Vallecitos Elementary School coach and teacher Ray Hanbeck, Vallecitos substitute teacher Eden Bezzant, and several Vallecitos students traveled to Warner Springs for the April 28 Warner Softball Tournament, and the Vikings placed fourth among boys and co-ed teams.
The Vikings won one game and lost three in the tournament. "For the most part I'm happy with how they've done," Hanbeck said.
"When they started coming out, they didn't even know how to throw a ball, catch a ball; they didn't know how to hold a bat the right way," Hanbeck said. "I'm very happy with the way that they made improvements."
Fourteen Vallecitos students were part of the softball team, although none of them had prior Little League Baseball, Pony League Baseball, or American Softball Association experience. "They haven't played before," Hanbeck said.
Seven small K-8 elementary schools and middle schools in northern San Diego County and southern Riverside County participate in athletic tournaments with a different school hosting a different sport each month.
In April 2019, Vallecitos was 2-3 at the Warner Softball Tournament. The coronavirus outbreak canceled the April 2020 tournament as well as the entire 2020-21 season, so the 2022 Vallecitos players hadn't even played softball in a previous Warner Softball Tournament. The Vikings began practicing softball approximately four weeks before the tournament.
Four of the Vallecitos players were too inexperienced to participate in this year's Warner Softball Tournament, so the Vikings had 10 players April 28. The teams pitch to their own batters; some schools utilized a student as the pitcher while Bezzant pitched for the Vikings. Each team had 10 players on the field.
The 10 Vallecitos players consisted of five boys and five girls. "A true co-ed team," Hanbeck said. "We have a group of strong athletes."
The games lasted four innings or 30 minutes, although the full inning was allowed to be completed if the 30 minutes had elapsed. A team was limited to five runs in their batting half of the inning. The games were played on the Warner Unified School District athletic fields, which are across State Route 79 from the elementary school, middle school, and high school campus.
Five of the seven schools participated; Borrego Middle School and Pauma Elementary School did not make the trip to Warner Springs. Cottonwood (Aguanga), Hamilton (Anza), and Julian had both boys teams and girls teams. Vallecitos and Warner had co-ed teams who played in the boys division.
Vallecitos and Warner played each other in the first round of boys/co-ed competition. Warner kindergarten teacher and Associated Student Body advisor Tiffany Lenfers, who was Tiffany Lee when she graduated from Fallbrook High School in 1991, watched that game along with her kindergarten students.
Warner had 13 students who practiced for the softball tournament, including 11 who played. The Wildcats won the 12-3 game which lasted three innings. Yamilee Rico and David Loera were on base when eighth-grader Jordan Anicete homered for the three Vallecitos runs.
"It was our first game, and I think they were playing with butterflies in their stomach," Hanbeck said. "The second game we started to settle down. They were playing defense better."
That second game was against Hamilton, who would win the boys division with a 4-0 record. (Julian won the girls division.) The Bobcats defeated Vallecitos in a 5-0 game. "We played our best against them besides Cottonwood," Hanbeck said.
Vallecitos obtained a 7-1 victory over Cottonwood in the Vikings' third game. "They really played well. They were making the catches and they were throwing well and their hitting was much better," Hanbeck said.
Anicete drove in five runs against the Cougars. One of his hits scored Rico and Loera; Rico scored on another of Anicete's hits; Anicete drove in Henry Toledo with a hit, and Anicete's other run batted in scored Isabel Chavez. Toledo had a hit which drove in Natalia Loera. Icarus Tabbutt-Spinello had a hit which scored Adela Alvaro.
Julian finished second in the boys division with a 3-1 record (Warner was third at 2-2). Julian and Vallecitos concluded play in the game which ended as an 8-0 Timberwolves win. "Julian is a strong team. They always have a strong team," Hanbeck said. "We did our best. We were able to at least play defense decently, but they were getting pretty good hits."
Cottonwood lost all four boys games to finish fifth in the 2022 tournament.
"With our co-ed team playing against boys teams, we've been able to be competitive," Hanbeck said.
Hanbeck isn't disappointed in fourth place. "We were playing with all rookies, inexperienced players," he said. "At least we were being competitive."
During his playing career, Hanbeck was a catcher for Carlsbad High School and Mira Costa College.
"I thought they made a lot of improvement," Hanbeck said of his players. "They're getting better at it. They're making plays."
This academic year's tournaments will conclude May 19 with a track and field meet hosted by Julian Middle School.