Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Members of the Madera Coyote softball coaching staff celebrate last year’s Valley Championship with head coach Judy Shaubach, holding ball. It was Shaubach’s 599th career victory. From left are Jerika Sanchez, Laura Salinas, Marissa Garcia, Alan Revilla, Shaubach, Melissa Armiento-van Loon, Vanessa Salinas, and Keith Davis.
When Madera Coyote softball coach was handed the reins of the program more than 26 years ago, little did she know she would still be at it in 2017.
“I can’t even fathom thinking I would still be in the game 30 years later and still loving it,” Shaubach said. “I still enjoy working with kids. You just don’t see that far down the road. One game at a time has always been that way for me. I just look forward to each time I step on that field. I tell the kids to play like it’s your last. I coach like it’s going to be my last. It’s been an enjoyable experience and couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Shaubach has coached more than 900 games in those 26-plus years and won three valley championships and enjoyed two 30-win seasons with 19 seasons of 20 or more wins. She has passed milestone after milestone and Thursday, after her Coyotes dismantled the Clovis West Golden Eagles, picked up win No. 600.
“It was an awesome way to start the season,” Shaubach said. “The kids were excited. It’s a neat way to start the season to make a little history.”
She is already the all-time winningest female coach in Central Section softball history and now ranks third on the all-time softball wins list — behind retired Gary Battles and Mike D’Amato of Independence-Bakersfield.
Shaubach insists it’s not about her. It’s about giving the kids a life experience and take something that will last the rest of their lives.
“It’s the kids’ stage,” she said. “I feel like I’m the director of the play. I feel like we do our work at practice. When it comes to game day, it’s their time to shine. I had my fun in the sun. I had my playing days and I hope I can give them a positive experience and teach them things on and off the field that will carry on through their life. It’s just exciting to watch them produce on the field and carry out the dreams I have for them. It’s about building friendships and the Coyote tradition.”
As with every season, Shaubach and the team has had to overcome obstacles along the way. However, the team’s biggest obstacle occurred at the beginning of the season when two starters decided to abruptly transfer to another school.
What was viewed as desertion, has also helped to unify the team for the ultimate goal of a third straight Valley Championship.
“We had some adversity with some kids leaving this program, but our kids have not missed a beat,” Shaubach said. “I felt these kids have really stepped up and put that aside. They have some big plans for this year and it’s going to be fun to watch it play out on the field.”
That play started Thursday with a demolishing of the Golden Eagles. The Coyotes’ top of the line-up of Taylor Brooks, Mikayla Ruiz and Aaliyah Cuevas combined for nine runs and nine hits. Meanwhile, the middle of the order with Cuevas, Kaylee Dawson and freshman Valerie Orneles drove in eight runs. Ornelas became the first Coyote freshman to homer in her first game.
“I was really impressed with our quickness, especially with our top of the order,” Shaubach said. “That was my vision for this year: to see the top get on and see the big hitters drive in runs. I thought our youngsters did a good job. We had some jitters on defense, but that’s kind of where we’re at because of the rain. It’s all fixable, though. I thought our pitchers did a good job of keeping the ball down and giving us an opportunity to make plays for them. It’s really exciting to start the season and nice to get a milestone like that.”
Kaylee Dawson picked up the victory in the circle. She allowed seven hits and three runs, two earned over four innings. Felicity Rocha picked up a three-inning save, allowing two runs with two strikeouts.
In looking back and reflecting, Shaubach points to a few games that will also be remembered like her first Valley Championship when Allison Crafton hit a home run for the only run in the game.
“There’s been great games along the way,” Shaubach said. “The first valley championship game was something to remember. The littlest girl on the team bangs out the biggest hit for us.”
Another memorable game for Shaubach was last year’s Valley Championship game that saw two Coyote comebacks to tie Monache-Porterville. Then, Cuevas ended the game with a walk-off, inside-the-park home run, running through Shaubach’s stop sign at third base.
“I thought last year’s experience was memorable because I felt like it was characteristic of how I feel the game is played,” Shaubach said. “We didn’t look good at the beginning but our kids kept battling, making things happen on the field.”
Although it occurred more almost 10 years ago, the 2008 Valley Championship runner-up team still tugs at her heart. That team was one of Shaubach’s best team and featured Pitcher of the Year, Vanessa Salinas, and Shaubach’s daughter, Shelby.
However, Centennial-Bakersfield came to Zimmerman Field, then on the Madison Elementary School campus and beat the Coyotes, 2-1.
“The toughest loss was the 2008 Valley Championship game,” Shaubach said. “I felt like those kids were one of the greatest teams I put together in regards to talent. We just couldn’t get it done at the end.”
One of her greatest accomplishments came during the 2003 season, better know as the bus accident season. During the Buchanan Easter Classic, the team was arriving to play, but the bus ran into a light post and the Coyotes were shaken and had to forfeit two games. Later in the season, senior pitcher Tina Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and broke her hand.
Shaubach had to find a pitcher fast and unleashed Sara Barcus in the playoffs that led to victories over Clovis West and Buchanan-Clovis and a loss in the title game to Clovis.
“One of my most favorite memories was the year we had the adversity where we had the bus accident and lost our senior pitcher that year,” Shaubach said. “I feel like that year was filled with adversity. To have that team come back and make a run at playoffs to beat Torrey Schroeder, arguably the best pitcher that year, and Clovis West and get into the finals with a good Clovis team. We played tough throughout the game. We had a ball go up the middle, had it gone through, we could have been a Valley champion that year.”
In recent years, it was moments of brevity from Shaubach that invoke smiles. Like the team in the Clovis Easter Classic championship game in 2014 when she fell to the ground to avoid running into an oncoming Coyote runner. Madera went on to win its first Easter Classic.
Also, fans can remember the time when Shaubach fell in the third base coaching box in the 2015 Valley Championship game and had to be taped up to finish the game. She didn’t regret it when the Coyotes recorded a 4-2 victory over Redwood-Visalia to win the team’s first Div. II Valley Championship and Shaubach’s first since 1989.
In regards to last year’s Valley Championship, who can forget the look on Shaubach’s face when Cuevas ran through her third base stop sign, but then the look on her face when the umpires put the safe sign when Cuevas scored the game-winning run.
However, Shaubach’s best feeling is seeing former players become members of the community to coach and teach.
“We have former players running the Little League and doing great things in the community,” she said. “We have former coach teach and help out, in addition to other sports. It warms my heart to think I may have made a little difference in their lives. That has been my greatest thing I’ll take out of it. Those kinds of experiences seeing the kids successful on and off the field.”
Every member of Shaubach’s coach staff, with the exception of Keith Davis and Alan Revilla, played for Shaubach. Freshman coach Breanna Armiento, junior varsity head coach Laura Cervantes and varsity assistants Melissa Armiento-van Loon and Vanessa Salinas were all Coyotes.
Although she may be a little biased, her favorite assistant was her daughter Shelby Davidson, who helped her win the 2015 Valley Championship.
“I had a great time with Shelby and seeing her grow and now raising her family and enjoying my grandson,” Shaubach said.
After getting her 600th win, Shaubach looks down the line and sees a few more years.
“I don’t know when that final game will be, but I see myself coaching quite a few more years,” Shaubach said. “I see Parker growing up fast. If I do say good bye to this game, it will be to watch him play baseball. He has a few more years to enjoy these kids and this great game. It’s a great game to learn, to grow. You see kids fail and then succeed over four years. I see this group of seniors now and remember their freshmen year.”