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Naples pitcher Alexia Malaca sends a pitch toward home plate in the Wildcats' victory over Spangdahlem on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Naples pitcher Alexia Malaca sends a pitch toward home plate in the Wildcats' victory over Spangdahlem on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – It doesn’t take long to watch a high school softball game to figure out what the most important position is.

So when Naples softball coach Amy Driscol discovered she had three players with pitching experience this season who had never suited up for the Wildcats before, she was more than a bit happy.

Two of them showed off their skills Saturday and the third caught all their pitches behind the plate as the Wildcats won the DODEA-Europe Division II/III championship with a 16-12 victory over Spangdahlem.

“We were very fortunate to have them move in,” Driscol said of Rebecca Lee and JuJu Martinez. Senior Alexia Malaca has been at Naples a bit longer but hasn’t played due to two years lost to coronavirus protocols.

Naples' JuJu Martinez, named most valuable player of the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships, hits a double on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Naples' JuJu Martinez, named most valuable player of the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships, hits a double on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Those two years left Naples – and just about every other team in DODEA-Europe - short on experienced players.

So Driscol said the goal at the start of the year was to teach most of the team basic skills. The new veterans helped out with that.

Martinez, a freshman named the tournament most valuable player, was catching Saturday. Not only did she generally keep balls from going to the backstop, but she starred at the plate, driving in four runs with a pair of doubles.

Driscol said she could play Martinez anywhere on the field thanks to eight years of playing with youth teams in Utah and Nevada.

Naples' Alexia Malaca swings at an approaching pitch Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships at Kaierslautern, Germany.

Naples' Alexia Malaca swings at an approaching pitch Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships at Kaierslautern, Germany. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Martinez said she probably prefers the position she played Saturday the most.

“It’s just you and the pitcher,” she said. “You have to develop a relationship so things go smoothly.”

It didn’t start off smoothly for the Wildcats against Spangdahlem, which had to rally earlier Saturday to defeat Sigonella 15-14 and advance to the title game. The Sentinels scored five times in the first inning with the help of two Wildcats errors.

Spangdahlem's Audrey Hauck delivers against Sigonella on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Spangdahlem's Audrey Hauck delivers against Sigonella on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

But Naples tied it up in the bottom of the inning. Martinez’s RBI double and a run-scoring single from Cadence Quintana were the key hits. After giving up another run to Spangdahlem in the second, Naples scored nine times in the bottom half to take control.

Naples had five straight walks, a hit batter and two singles that didn’t make it out of the infield before the Sentinels recorded an out. Martinez followed with a three-run double.

Spangdahlem coach Phillip Byrd said his team’s inexperience showed in that inning.

“It was really a Cinderalla story for us to get this far,” he said. “We had no experienced pitchers at the start of the year. Not a lot of experience in general, really. Our offense kept us in games all year.”

Sigonella scored a run against Audrey Hauck in a close play at home, but the Sentinels pitcher eventually came out on top as her team advanced to face Naples in the DODEA-Europe Division II/III finals Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Sigonella scored a run against Audrey Hauck in a close play at home, but the Sentinels pitcher eventually came out on top as her team advanced to face Naples in the DODEA-Europe Division II/III finals Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Sigonella's Erin Martin pitches to Spangdahlem on Saturday, May 21, 2022, in a game that determined who would face Naples in the finals of the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships at Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Sigonella's Erin Martin pitches to Spangdahlem on Saturday, May 21, 2022, in a game that determined who would face Naples in the finals of the DODEA-Europe Division II/III softball championships at Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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