Sierra High softball coach Victor DeAnda will remember the movement on her pitches, the willingness to go inside on hitters and the insatiable will to win.
History will remember Lindsey Walljasper for her three Sac-Joaquin Section championships and near-perfect record in playoff games.
In four years, the Nebraska-bound Walljasper was 15-1 in the postseason, identifying her as one of the region’s all-time greatest players.
To be sure, she is The Bulletin’s All-Area MVP.
“I think what separates her from everyone is her heart and the will to win,” DeAnda said. “She has the love for the game that I think brings out her competitive (side).
“Her legacy alone will be three section titles in four years. The only reason she did not get four is she was very sick (in 2016).”
Her final act solidified Sierra as one of the section’s true softball powers, regardless of division and enrollment. The Timberwolves swept through the Division IV tournament, rolling over Ripon and Kimball to reach the semifinal round.
In the medal rounds, Sierra survived dogfights with Rosemont (2-1) and Calaveras (3-1) to become the only team in section history with five Division IV titles.
Overall, the Timberwolves have five section championships, all in the last eight years.
Walljasper acknowledged her postseason record, but said her mentality never wavered. She was the same player in April as she was in February.
“I don’t think it switches. I think it has been there the whole time,” Walljasper said. “It’s not always physical; it’s more mental. I really think one inning, one out, one game at a time.”
Her mettle was tested in the section final.
Walljasper’s stat line against Calaveras wasn’t overly impressive, but her plays in big moments were. She escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth inning with a pair of strikeouts, and she reached base in all four plate appearances.
“In the postseason, Lindsey seemed to be stronger and more well-rested than other pitchers,” said DeAnda, who retired after nearly a decade of service in the dugout. “I think that was a strategy both me and my assistant Troy Walljasper (Lindsey’s father) used when I came, and yes, it did bring out the best in her.”
Walljasper burned the opposition from the chalked circle and the batter’s box. She hit .500 with eight home runs and 26 RBI. She drew 21 walks, including two intentional passes in the section final. Her on-base percentage was .752.
Her calling card, though, was a dynamic array of pitches that flutter and sizzle. Despite her limited innings in February and March, Walljasper still amassed a 16-2 record with 190 strikeouts in 112 innings and a 0.17 ERA.
The opposition hit just .146 against her.
“I left it all out on the field,” said Walljasper, who leaves for Nebraska on Aug. 10.
Still, it took a humbling loss to Valley Oak League rival Oakdale to put the Timberwolves on a championship trajectory.
The Mustangs thumped Sierra 6-0 on April 4, a loss DeAnda said “opened the kids’ eyes that we can’t just show up and assume that we were going to win.”
The response was resounding. Sierra won its final 12 games and avenged its loss to Oakdale with a 1-0 triumph on May 2. That win forced a split of the VOL crown with Oakdale.
“Oakdale made us open our eyes and realize that we really want to win,” Walljasper said. “After that Oakdale game and everything that went down, it made us want it even more.”
There’s another wrinkle to Walljasper’s legacy.
With a third section title, she broke a tie with her older sister and best friend Allie Walljasper, a former All-American at LSU and top draft pick by the Beijing Shougang Eagles.
Allie led Sierra to section crowns in 2011 and 2013.
Lindsey lifted banners in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
“She’s had a huge impact on me. Even now, we’ve been so close this whole year and it keeps getting closer and closer,” Lindsey Walljasper said. “Ever since we were little and hitting in the backyard — nothing has changed.
“My goal from the beginning of my freshman year was to be just as good or better than my sister. That’s a goal I’ve been trying to reach and I feel like I’ve accomplished that.”
James Burns has covered high school and collegiate sports in the Central Valley for the last 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @jburns1980.
Offensive Player of the Year
SS Izabella Owen, East Union, Sr.
Defensive Player of the Year
3B/CF Lily Mejia, Ripon, So.
Pitcher of the Year
Madison DeGraaf, Ripon Christian, So.;
Pitcher —Shelby Cefalu, East Union, Jr.
Catchers — Elizabeth Thomas, Ripon Christian, So.; Samantha Lorge, Sierra, So.
Infielders — SS Shay Furtado, Ripon, Sr.; 3B Alexandra Parker, East Union, Fr.; SS Mia Guevara, Sierra, So.; 1B Sydney Vernon, Ripon, Jr.
Outfielders — Allison Tajii, East Union, Sr.; Rhiannon Genilla, Manteca, Sr.; Callie Crain, Sierra, Jr.
Utility —P/3B Sydney Thomason, Ripon, Fr.; SS/3B/P Samantha Sales, Lathrop, Sr.; P/OF Koryn Menasco, Manteca, Sr.