Rewind to the 2017 season where the Clovis Cougars softball team were crowned Valley Champions after defeating the Central Grizzlies 2-1.
While the Cougars celebrated as a team, the Puente sisters shared a moment together they will never forget.
“When they had gotten the last out, all three of us just came together and we just kind of shared the moment,” Kassie Puente said. “We did it, all three of us together.”
A.P., K.P. and E.P., as some call them (short for Allie, Kassie and Emily Puente), have grown up together not only as sisters, but also softball players.
Emily, Kassie and Allie formed a triangle on the diamond for the Cougars for two years. Allie pitched, Kassie caught, and Emily played first base. It was a synergy like no other according to the Cougars’ catcher. Kassie, 17, and Allie, 17, were freshmen and sophomores during Emily’s junior and senior season.
“When all three of us are on the field, it feels different. It’s like a different environment because I have more trust in them. I know they’re capable of a lot, so if the ball is hit to them or thrown to them, they’ll be able to maintain it because I know they’ve been playing this game their whole life,” Kassie said.
When Emily, 19, finally got a chance to play with her twin sisters, she cherished the moment.
“Just being able to play with them and share the same field with them was really fun. We always pushed each other, no matter what it was. We were competitive with each other, but we always supported each other,” she said.
As a kid, Allie watched her big sister play, later following in her footsteps with her twin sister Kassie in tow. Their father, Oscar Puente, 48, was a former baseball player and is now a coach, and that fondness for a bat and ball sport rubbed off on his daughters.
“We were just always around my dad and his players growing up,” Emily said. “My mom would take us to his practices and we would throw the ball around and it was just fun to be out there. He was a big influence on us playing.”
Emily began training with her father around 6 years old, up until she was 14. Her twin sisters were coached by their father for years as well.
“I just did it because Emily did it and I would always go and watch her games. My mom kind of said, well ‘she did it, so you are going to go do it, too.’ So, I kind of followed down that path and Kassie came with me” Allie said.
Along with a nudge from their mother Maricela, the softball sisters continued to pursue the sport.
“There was a time when he and my mom wanted us to do sports to kind of stay into it. He knew a lot about the game so he kind of took us in the right direction and he really coached us from the start, and without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Kassie said.
The Puente sisters spent their young careers playing on school teams and outside leagues often coached by their father. Since Emily was a few years older, she couldn’t play with her twin sisters as much as she would’ve liked, but as they got older, they got a few chances to share the same diamond.
Their success was built on their commitment to the sport and the hard work it entailed. All three sisters made varsity as freshmen and will all have four years at the highest level when they finish. Add in a 2017 Valley Championship ring and the softball sisters have had a memorable moment throughout.
For Allie, her progression from freshman on varsity to her 2019 season was special in its own way. She was crowned TRAC Pitcher of the Year after a dominant season on the mound, including a no-hitter.
“Truly when you pitch, you’re never really alone. There are always girls behind you know matter what,” Allie said.
Growing up with two siblings who played the same sport brought out some competitiveness within the household, but it turned out to be beneficial as the Puente sisters continued to push each other.
“It’s very competitive in this house. I guess we all got better each day because we always tried to do something better than the other. We were always competing about who was the best in the house,” Allie said.
Emily attested to that fact, recalling even a simple time of when shooting hoops turned into a competition.
“I don’t even know how many times we played in our backyard, just shooting hoops, but we would argue if that was a good shot or not, we were just so competitive.”
But the source of their competitiveness, Allie admitted, comes from their parents; “they really egg it on sometimes.”
Her father, a baseball and softball coach with over 30 years of experience at both Washington Union, Madera South and now Reyburn Intermediate, admitted to egging on his daughters, but there was a good reason for that.
“My wife and I used to be athletes. I played baseball and football and my wife played basketball, softball and volleyball. We were kind of competitive and I think it got brought out more so when we played with the kids, it has kind of carried over to them. I’m always like, ‘Hey, let’s make a game out of this.’”
Their parents used competition to keep them going in whatever the task was. School, athletics or yard work; their parents always found a way to get their daughters engaged. Rewards don’t hurt either.
“You know, you’d be surprised what a little Dutch Bros will do,” he said.
Their father coached all three daughters for years, but it got to a point where a new voice was needed to get the best out of the Puentes. Luckily, the family found a home at Clovis High School in Mike Noel’s program.
“Mike Noel, he runs a great program there with Ralph Salazar, the pitching coach, along with Mike Salazar, the hitting coach. The system does a great job with the girls and I’ve seen them grow you know. I did what I could do, coaching them for years, but again it’s been dad for so long that I thought they needed a new voice. I coached them up to a certain point and Mike and Clovis High made them better players, but also better people.”
While the transition was new for Puente, being able to be a dad and just watch and enjoy has been a fun experience as well. After missing out due to game days and other responsibilities of being a coach, he finally was able to sit back and watch his daughters play, and that’s exactly what they did.
After Allie’s no-hitter, a game which her sister caught, their father was adamant that his daughter’s competitiveness on the mound contributed to the special night and her subsequent yearly award.
“Allie is just a gamer. She wants the ball and she just competes. I can tell when she’s on and that game she was. It wasn’t just that night. She had a few games where she just gave up one hit. She was close to other [no-hitters].”
With Kassie and Allie set to undergo their final season in 2020 as seniors, the opportunity to play at the next level like their big sister beckons, but for the pitcher-catcher combo set to lead Clovis High School, a second Valley Championship is on their minds.
“I definitely think we are going back to the Valley Championship next year,” Allie said confidently. “I am full on for that and I’m trying to get my team on that same boat as me because it’s my last season.”