The Calaveras Redskins were leading Summerville 1-0 on March 30 in San Andreas. It was inning No. 5, there were two outs, and Summerville’s Courtney Robinson hit a whistling line drive that had eyes for right field.
Calaveras Redskin Courtney Tarbat is the 2012 Union Democrat All-Area Most Valuable Player. The Redskins finished third in Mother Lode League play and advanced to the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championships. AMY ALONZO ROZAK/UNION DEMOCRAT
Redskin junior second baseman Courtney Tarbat made a leaping head-first dive to her left, extended her glove and engulfed that softball before it touched ground.
“Unbelievable play,” recalled Summerville head coach Ben Watson. “Courtney Tarbat makes this incredible diving catch at a hugely critical time in the game and robs us of what looked like a sure-hit. Then I remember that, while her teammates were going wild, Courtney just got up all nonchalant. She had just made this awesome play — which was as good a play as I saw any second baseman make all year — and you could tell that to Courtney ... she was just doing her job. And I thought right then, ‘That is how softball should be played.’ ”
“Whenever Courtney made one of those spectacular catches,” said 10-year Redskins head coach Dominic Vasile, “you could just see our whole team light up. Our whole infield fed off her. She’s a highly intelligent fielder. She’s always thinking, ‘Where do I need to be?’ ‘What’s the situation?’ ‘What do we need to do as an infield?’ And then she’d be vocal. Courtney Tarbat is so enthusiastic. Courtney Tarbat loves softball.”
And Courtney Tarbat is the 2012 Union Democrat All-Area Most Valuable Player.
“When Courtney found out she was the All-Area MVP, she called me and she was beyond excited,” said Vasile. “Of course, I was just as excited as she was. As a coach, when you have a player like Courtney that comes to practice and works as hard as she possibly can every single day, and then produces at such an outstanding level in the games like Courtney did, you’re thrilled that your player gets rewarded like this.
“But as excited as I was, I wasn’t surprised because I knew that Courtney deserved the award. But Courtney couldn’t fathom that she was getting the same award that Tanna Bindi, Kelli Keefe and Kendra Bennett had gotten. Courtney has always looked up to those three girls and couldn’t believe that she was in that same group. But I told Courtney, ‘You made it. You’re the All-Area MVP like Tanna and Kelli and Kendra were because you deserve it. You had an amazing season.’ ”
Indeed she did.
Tarbat batted .467, had an on-base-percentage of .587, and .700 slugging percentage. She had two out-of-the-park home runs, and in 69 plate appearances only struck out three times.
“Our goal this season was to not let Courtney Tarbat beat us,” said Bret Harte head coach Heath Lane. “But she still beat us. She’d wait, wait, wait, stay patient at the plate — and then beat you. She has a great approach at the plate. She goes up there with a purpose, and she almost always accomplishes that purpose.
“Some people might look at Courtney and think that because she makes things look so natural, that her abilities are all due to being gifted. But, in actuality, it’s her work ethic which sets her apart. Courtney being named All-Area MVP is a great pick and it is very well deserving. That’s who I would have picked.”
“I just worked hard and hoped for the best,” said Tarbat. “I didn’t ever think I’d get the MVP award. Every year I’d see who got the award and I’d think, ‘If I can only be like them.’ I’ve looked up to Kelli Keefe and Kendra Bennett for so long and I was able to play with them (on Vasile’s summer teams) and to now share this honor with them is an amazing feeling.”
Tarbat and Calaveras were 20-8 this season and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championships.
“Since we were such a young team, we knew it would be tough to get in the playoffs,” said Tarbat. “But we figured if we each worked hard, it would happen. (Redskin assistant coach) Randy Jasper and Dom did everything they could for us. A lot of kudos belong to Randy and Dom.”
Not that he minded, but Dominic Vasile was late for dinner a lot this spring.
“Well,” said Vasile, “we’d be done with a solid, long, productive softball practice and the girls would start to leave. And then Courtney Tarbat, one of our captains and a true team leader, would look at me and ask, ‘Can I stay? Can I take a few more ground balls?’ And I’d say, ‘Sure.’ And then another girl would stay. And then another. And before you knew it, the whole team was running back onto the field and we were right back to a full team practice. Courtney would get things started and everyone followed her lead.
“Courtney is one of the best team players that I’ve ever coached. She’s not at all about individual statistics or anything like that. If she goes 4 for 4, hits a home run and we lose, she’s wondering what she could have done differently to help us win. That’s what you want in a ballplayer.”
Said Tarbat, “I had a good feeling that this would be a good season right from the start when we beat (eventual Mother Lode League champion) Argonaut 2-1 at their field (March 23). My favorite game was our first win over Bret Harte (April 18) when we 10-run-ruled them. They had knocked us out of the playoffs the year before, so we had to get them back.”
In that 13-2 home win over Bret Harte, Tarbat had two hits, two RBIs and a double.
“The game I’ll remember most this year with regards to Courtney,” said Vasile, “was against Summerville later in the season (May 2). She just dominated, took over the game and we won (16-4).”
In that road contest against the Bears, Tarbat walked once, had two hits, scored three times, knocked in four RBIs and got utterly violent with one softball — blasting a towering home run over the center field fence.
“Courtney has a complete understanding of hitting,” said Vasile. “She understands situations. Runners on? She’s thinking of making contact, moving them over or bringing them home. With no runners on, she is telling herself, ‘I must get on’ and ‘What’s the best way to get on? A walk? Hit up the middle?’ She works so hard — physically and mentally — rarely gets fooled and always hits that ball hard.
“She has already had a phenomenal career for us. As a sophomore on varsity, she hit .411, made First-Team All-Area and All-MLL. Then, this year, she is again way over .400 and adds power to her game. Courtney helped lead a young team to the playoffs where we were neck-and-neck with the eventual section champ (Hughson) for five innings. And, after that game, I’m talking to our young team and telling them what a fine season they had and that, some time soon, they should start thinking about the next season. I didn’t really mean that very week that they had to start thinking about next season. But I look over at Courtney and — her being the competitor that she is — she’s nodding her head and saying, ‘Yes, tomorrow, let’s start thinking about next season.’ She, literally, meant that she’d start thinking about next season the very next day.
“How can Courtney possibly top these past two seasons? How can you top being the best player in our area as a junior? I don’t know. But if anyone can, it’s Courtney Tarbat.”