Nick Olmo reiterated on Tuesday that he doesn’t put much stock into rankings.
But even he was tickled to find out that the Sierra High softball team was named the Division III State Team of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.
“As a coach I am proud of that, of course,” said Olmo, who completed his seventh year as head coach by guiding the Timberwolves (25-2) to their second Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship in three seasons.
“The girls put in the work and the time, and they’re getting everything they deserve.”
Sierra was the only Northern California squad to be honored by Cal-Hi Sports, joining Division I Santiago of Corona, Division II Chino, Division IV Aquinas of San Bernardino and Division V Port of Los Angeles.
Sierra garnered prestige from another reputable online publication earlier this season. On April 3, the Timberwolves were deemed the nation’s ninth best club according to the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. Olmo called it “flattering” but maintained that the team is more focused on playing good ball. They then suffered the first of their two losses later that day, 3-2 to crosstown rival East Union. Nine days later Oakdale stunned Sierra, 3-1. Both defeats came at home.
While the setbacks dropped Sierra in the MaxPreps rankings (it ends up 53rd nationally, 19th in the state and No. 2 in the section behind Division I champ Vintage), Olmo said they helped his team play its best ball for the remainder of the season.
Sierra went on to win its final 10 contests, including three to Valley Oak League foe Kimball, the section runner-up. The Timberwolves dispatched the Jaguars 4-0 in the section finale.
“You don’t ever want to speak of having an undefeated season, but we were really hoping for it,” Olmo said. “We had been taking care of business and beat a bunch of very good Division I teams in the preseason, but maybe the team needed a little bit of a wake-up call there. The girls were in coast mode, so it was a good thing it happened at that point. They recovered well from it and played very well until the end.”
At the center of Sierra’s unprecedented success is junior Allie Walljasper, who committed to LSU last year. The VOL’s co-MVP and Pitcher of the Year compiled an 18-2 record, 0.47 ERA, and just 36 hits and 227 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings during the regular season. Offensively, she hit .481 with four home runs and 20 RBIs.
Seniors Iyana Hughes and Sommer Wilson also played major roles. The Virginia-bound Hughes moved to first base from her usual centerfield spot to fill a need and didn’t skip a beat. She batted .471 and led the team with 25 runs. Wilson, heading to UC Riverside, added six home runs to her program-record total and racked up 28 RBIs and a .484 average.
“It doesn’t hurt having a Division I pitcher leading the way, but as great as Allie has been she can’t do it all herself. We pulled up Sommer and Iyana halfway through their freshmen year, so they’ve basically been with (the varsity) for four years. Those were rock solid on the field and at the plate for us.”
Going into next season the spotlight will still likely shine on Timberwolves, who lose four starters to graduation — the others being outfielder Katelynn Perkins and third baseman Gabby Olmo, the coach’s daughter.
“We take some hits losing the seniors, but I’m not extremely worried,” coach Olmo said. “We have a lot of girls on the team who dedicate their lives to softball. I brought up a freshman crop of players this year that are top-caliber travel-ball players. With Allie in the circle, we hope to make another legitimate run in the playoffs again next year.”