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The Times' softball coach of the year: Rudy Aguirre of Carson

Despite winning the City Section Open Division softball title last year, Carson was not the favorite going into the 2024 season. The team the Colts defeated for the title, Granada Hills, was expected to raise the trophy given that only one of its players had graduated from the season before.

Meanwhile, Carson had to replace co-captain Priscilla Villarreal, outfielder Amanda Marrufo and All-City second baseman Zaniah Puni.

However, coach Rudy Aguirre got his team to play its best when it mattered most and has earned The Times' coach of the year honors following Carson’s 1-0 victory over Granada Hills in 14 innings on May 18 at Long Beach State, the championship game lasting over four hours during which he seemingly pressed all the right buttons.

“They came in with a 27-2 record and a really good pitcher [junior], Addison Moorman, so we knew they were going to be very tough,” Aguirre said of Granada Hills. “We worked a lot on hitting, we had long practices in preparation for that game, the girls worked hard and they believed.”

Aguirre took over the Colts’ program in 2017 after nine years as a head coach at Marine League rival Banning — a stint that started in 2009 when his daughter Stephanie transitioned from center field to catcher for the Pilots.

He has led Carson to a 38-17-2 record in the last two seasons and now Aguirre might be building a dynasty in the South Bay as pitcher Giselle Pantoja, who tossed a one-hitter with 17 strikeouts in the finals against Granada Hills, is projected to return for her senior year.

Read more: The Times' All-Star baseball and softball coverage

“We have really strong leadership,” Aguirre said. “In the offseason, Giselle developed her off-speed pitches and a changeup she could throw for a strike.”

After suffering its only league loss to San Pedro, 3-2, on April 5, Carson reeled off 10 wins in a row to close the season, outscoring its opponents 146-9 in the process.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.