‘A family affair’: Enochs softball secured its best season in 10 years with special bonds
After more than five seasons as the Enochs High varsity softball coach, Moises Martinez decided it was time for a change.
Martinez, a volunteer coach with years of experience, served on the staff of nearly every softball team since the school was built in 2006 and after more than 70 wins as a head coach, made the decision to step down after the 2020 season.
The only replacement that made sense to him? His daughter.
Adriana Martinez, whom he coached in his first year as a member of the Enochs staff in 2009, was a math teacher on campus and had coaching experience after serving as an assistant to Tim Williams, who coached from 2011 to 2014.
“It was time for me,” Moises Martinez said. “My thought process was ‘Let me hand it over to her, help her with the scheduling and help her with the (coaching) process,’ and that’s where we’re at today.
“It was just her time.”
Adriana Martinez took over the program in the pandemic-shortened spring 2021 season and has seen the team’s record improve every year.
The Eagles went 9-1 in 2021, 15-10-1 overall and 10-5 in CCAL play in 2022, and the 20-3 overall with a 15-0 league record this season.
“That’s priceless,” Moises Martinez said of coaching with his daughter. “You’re out here with her and there’s so much bonding time with her and with all the other girls that are striving to be better.”
Pitcher Natalie Camarena also is surrounded by family.
On defense, her dad, assistant coach Lupe Camarena, makes the pitch calls and her sister, Lillian, stands a few feet to her right at third base.
My freshman varsity season was EPIC! 15-0 league champs and made it to quarter finals in SJS D1 playoffs. ️’d being on the field with my sissy @nat_camarena17 Ready for travel ball with my Mojo team! @ExtraInningSB @LegacyLegendsS1 @oliviaadyan @lmulionsSB @CalPolySoftball pic.twitter.com/TG1M8cClIi
— Lillian Camarena 2026 C/3B #55 (@SmallsCamarena) May 19, 2023
“It’s a family affair,” Adriana Martinez said. “We’re all connected.”
In their first high school season together, Natalie, a junior, and Lillian, a freshman, are in constant communication. The younger sister constantly offers words of encouragement and occasionally makes her way toward the pitchers’ circle to tell her, “Yes, you can.”
“Growing up, she’s been my best friend,” Natalie Camarena said. “When I need someone to yell at me to get out of my own head or get everything together, she’s just right there. I turn to her and she’s like, ‘Dude, come on.’ It’s just so nice knowing that we have that bond where it’s not just at home, it’s on the field. That’s gonna stick with us for our whole lives.”
‘Riding a high’
The Eagles won the most games in program history since 2013 and secured their first unbeaten league record since going 12-0 in the Modesto Metro Conference in that same season. They were awarded a No. 4 seed in the 2023 Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, guaranteeing at least two home games, and earned their first postseason win since 2014 with a 21-0 five-inning victory over Stagg. They entered Thursday’s Sac-Joaquin Section quarterfinal game against Inderkum High of Sacramento on an 11-game win streak.
“The girls set a goal to win league and then after they did that, their goal was to make it deep in playoffs,” Adriana Martinez said. “The school hasn’t made it to the second round in a while.”
Leading into Thursday’s game, Natalie Camarena led the team with 15 wins in 20 appearances with 158 strikeouts defensively. On offense, she was first in batting average (.516), RBIs (25) and doubles (9) to go along with three home runs.
Senior Jordan Bennett had team highs in home runs (6) and runs scored (29) and was second in RBIs (23) and doubles (8) with a .460 batting average.
In addition to Camarena and Bennett, five other Eagles — Lailoni Booker, Alaina Calvo, Jaidyn Pinnegar, Kaylin McNeill and Alyssa Blanco — all hit above .400.
“We were riding a high the whole time,” Natalie Camarena said, reflecting on the season. “Last year we lost in the first round and took second in league to Gregori, so this year the seniors were like, ‘We’re gonna go farther this year.’ We did it for them because we know they’re graduating and for (a lot) of them, their softball career is over. We just really wanted to do it for them and make sure they had a memorable last year.”
Hope for next year
The Eagles’ season ended in heartbreaking fashion — a 4-1 loss to the Tigers — much earlier than they hoped.
They had their chances, advancing runners into scoring position in the bottom of the first, third and fifth innings, but were able to push just one run across in the first, courtesy of a Natalie Camarena sacrifice bunt. Lillian Camarena finished with a team-high two hits, both singles.
The Tigers had a big first inning, scoring two runs on four hits, but were quiet for most of the game until scoring one run in the fifth and sixth innings each.
Just one senior took the field for the Eagles on Thursday afternoon: the shortstop, Bennett. Adriana Martinez says that for some of the players to get their first varsity experience in a high-stakes game in the second round of the playoffs can only help heading into next season.
“They got thrown into the wolves right away,” she said. “Now they know what to expect and what they need to work on to be an everyday starter on varsity (next year).”
A number of their top players will be back next season.
Natalie, who finished 15th in the section in strikeouts and eighth in wins, will be a senior. Booker, who plays in left field and hit .500 in limited at bats in 19 games, could see her role expand next season as a sophomore. Blanco, the center fielder, catcher Emma Zulawski and Lillian Camarena are among some key returners who will look to help Enochs chase back-to-back CCAL titles and make what they hope will be a deep 2024 playoff push.
“We held our own against them,” Natalie Camarena said of her team’s effort against the Tigers. “(Bennett) was out here and she’s such a key player for our team.
“I do have good hope for next season. I know we’re still going to be competing at a high level and will make a name for ourselves again next year.”