Wildfires dedicate win to Herlehy

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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FORESTHILL — Stacy Stroup and her players celebrated a landmark moment for the Foresthill High softball program with watery eyes Wednesday night in Lodi. After defeating San Juan 5-2 for the school’s first postseason victory on the diamond, the Wildfires gathered and shouted “Max” in honor of Foresthill youngster Max Herlehy, who passed away Wednesday after a long battle with leukemia. He was the son of Foresthill football coach and teacher Jim Herlehy. “It was huge to get the first win in the postseason for the program,” said Stroup, whose daughter Sadie is the team’s ace pitcher. “It was an emotional night with what happened on Wednesday and we thought we should do a cheer for him after the game.” The Wildfires overcame turmoil to make history. Coach George Fitzinger was asked to resign by the school’s administration late in the season, leaving Stroup to take the reins. She also coaches the Foresthill High volleyball team and basketball at the Foresthill Divide Middle School. “It’s been difficult,” Stroup said of her transition. “But we’ve focused on our hitting a lot. We knew we would be facing some faster pitching in the playoffs, so we’ve used the machine and tried to change their batting techniques a little bit.” The extra batting practice paid off Wednesday as the Wildfires (8-7) got to Spartans’ ace Taylor Kennedy often. Junior captain Nicole Nevares led the way with two hits. “She got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but her bat really came around,” Stroup said of Nevares. The Nevares name is well known at Foresthill. Nicole’s sister Corinne was a tremendous pitcher for the Wildfire. Nicole now has bragging rights after Wednesday’s win. Senior Tegan Haveman is the team’s emotional leader and senior Jessica Holdgate is a defensive standout in center field. Bailey McDonald, Caitlin McCann, Stroup and Nevares are part of an outstanding group of underclassmen. The Wildfires will take on a tough Le Grand team in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinals on Saturday at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton. On Thursday at a leisurely practice, the Foresthill players were mostly relishing their victory, which was more than just historic. “It’s never happened before,” Nevares said. “And we did it for Max.”