South Pasadena’s Parada helps make Tigers No. 1
Here is the 2008 softball preview courtesy of Keith Lair.
Above: South Pasadena’s Nichole Parada. (Staff Photo by Walt Mancini)
STAR-NEWS TOP 10
1. South Pasadena (16-11)
2. Alverno (23-6)
3. Temple City (17-12)
4. Monrovia (21-4-1)
5. Arcadia (21-6)
6. Keppel (11-8)
7. Maranatha (9-13)
8. Pasadena Poly (12-10)
9. Marshall (11-14)
10. Flintridge Sacred Heart (9-11)
Others to watch
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
Nichole Parada and Michelle Escamilla once were teammates on a travel softball team.
One would pitch the first game and the other would pitch the second. They now are seniors, and their best seasons are in front of them.
But they no longer are teammates. South Pasadena High School’s Parada will be one of the top players in the ultra-competitive Rio Hondo League and Escamilla hopes to lead Alverno to another Horizon League title.
But it’s tough to win a league title, let alone score a repeat.
Parada’s difficult trek goes through Monrovia, Temple City, San Marino and La Ca ada. There are tough battles in other leagues, too.
Here’s the preseason Top 10:
No. 1 South Pasadena
Tigers coach Mike Williams said he wouldn’t trade his top pitcher for anybody.
“Nichole is going to be Nichole,” Williams said. “She’s going to give it her all. I would take 10 of her if I could.”
Parada had a 0.63 ERA last season with 190 strikeouts and 27 walks. The four-year starter was 15-8.
“Our pitching and our defense will keep us in games,” Williams said.
Yes, opponents are going to hit the ball. And with nearly everyone returning, the Tigers have an excellent chance to keep base runners to a minimum. The Tigers lost only one senior, third baseman Cassie Gogreve, who was last year’s leading hitter on a team that went 16-11.
The infield revolves around sophomore Shelby Gogreve, Michelle Mun and Amanda Castro.
“It starts with pitching, but if you don’t have a defense behind her, you’re in trouble,” Williams said. “And we can’t have kids hitting .188 and expecting to start. We have to fill up numbers. We did not have enough key hits last year. I know we’ve worked very hard on our offense.”
Parada’s younger sister, freshman Laura, will be on the team, but will not start. She may, however, see playing time.
Williams said it will be important to not look past teams such as La Canada.
“If you look on paper, it’s Temple City and us, but everybody has a chance to step up,” Williams said. “If we can do what we’re capable of doing, we’ll be very successful.”
No. 2 Alverno
The Sierra Madre school is one of the smallest in the area. But the Jaguars expect to come up big on the field this season.
Escamilla, one of the most dominant pitchers in the east San Gabriel Valley last season, is back. So are four seniors who helped Alverno reach the CIF-Southern Section Division VI semifinals last season, where the Jaguars lost to Riverside Christian, 3-1.
“Pretty much our entire team is coming back,” coach Frank Russo said. “We’re going to be a young old team. Our expectations are pretty high because the girls know what they can do.”
Escamilla and Co. had a 23-6 record last season to win the Horizon League. The senior had a 0.85 ERA with 294 strikeouts and 27 walks in 146 innings. Escamilla also batted .450 with 37 RBIs.
The only loss, Russo said, will be at first base, where junior Barbara Parker is expected to fill the void.
The Jaguars are solid up the middle with sophomore Lauren Sanchez, who batted .434 with 26 RBIs and five homers, at shortstop and junior Amanda Mowery, who hit .381 with 20 RBIs last season, at second base. Sarah Trevino, who hit .361, is back at catcher. Also among the heavy hitters will be senior Emillie Casalegno and senior Michelle Baroldo.
“We’re not bad for only having a couple of players who play travel ball,” Russo said.
The key, of course, will be Escamilla.
“She does have a lot of strikeouts per innings and she does whatever you ask of her,” Russo said. “She works hard.”
No. 3 Temple City
The Rams return every starter and definitely will make noise when Rio Hondo League play begins.
“Everyone has been waiting for this year,” coach Bob Ellingsworth said. “They know this is the year that they have been waiting for.”
Temple City went 17-12 and reached the CIF-SS Division V quarterfinals last season.
“Our strength is depth,” Ellingsworth said. “From spots eight, nine, 10, 11, we’re very strong. The bottom of our batting order – seven, eight and nine – are very good hitters.”
The Rams will be pitching by committee. Melissa Vega and newcomer Kelsey Hardwick, up from junior varsity, will lead the mound corps.
Kaitlin Ellingworth and Veronica Grant also are two of the Rams’ top players.
No. 4 Monrovia
The 2007 Rio Hondo League champions are ready to reload.
The Wildcats lost five starters, including twins Krissy and Courtney Mihm, Katie McWhirter and pitcher Brittany Bateson from a 21-4-1 team.
“The girls who played behind them are now able to step up and fill those roles,” coach Randy Medina said. “They will have to make it their own role.”
The changes definitely will put pressure on the Wildcats when league play begins. Medina expects his team to be up for the challenge.
“We still look at league as very competitive,” Medina said. “It should be a good, strong league.”
Senior Lexi Long will play catcher after batting .303 last season.
Brooke Cowell is expected to make a big impact at first base. Shannon Brooks will start for the third year in the outfield, along with sophomore Desiree Milosavlijevic.
Medina inherited another set of twins and predicted they’ll see plenty of playing time. Freshman Cari Williams will be on the mound and her sister, Kelly, will share catching duties with Long. When Williams is catching, Long will be playing shortstop.
“League will be difficult,” Medina said. “Our seniors need to take the lead.”
No. 5 Arcadia
The Jenna Rodriguez era is over. So is the Ed Andersen era.
But that’s the nature of high school softball. Rodriguez, this newspaper’s player of the year, graduated. Coach Andersen went on to new exploits.
“Every year, you change people,” new Apaches coach Megan Leahy said.
“That’s just the nature of what it is.”
There is some continuity. Leahy was with the program last year and played catcher for the Apaches through 2002.
The Apaches will go with pitcher Patricia Stark, who was on the JV team last season. If it wasn’t for Rodriguez, Stark probably would have had a big hand in the Apaches’ 21-6 season last year.
“We’re definitely excited,” Leahy said. “We expect competitive softball at Arcadia, and we will, with everyone working together.”
The Apaches do have very good players returning. There’s infielder Dusty Gibbs, who batted .309 last year. She was an All-Area first team selection. There’s also Samantha Miller, who batted .462 with 16 RBIs, Caitlin Grimes, who hit .373, and Monique Vallejo.
“We’re going to look to the seniors to step up,” Leahy said.
No. 6 Keppel
The area’s best hitter and middle of the defense is back on the field, thanks to the Cajon basketball team, which defeated the Aztecs in the girls basketball playoffs. Second baseman Tiffany Rubin and shortstop Courtney Hirose, members of the Aztecs basketball team, will be anchoring a team that coach Bobby Madrid expects to go far this year.
Rubin led the area in hitting last year with a .548 batting average.
She had 10 home runs, 35 RBIs, six triples and four doubles on a team that went 11-8.
“I expect she probably won’t get very many good looks this year,” Madrid said. “But she’ll adjust. She’s a good enough player.”
The Aztecs only need to find replacements at first and third base. Junior Justine Morin returns for her third season on the mound. Last year, she had a 3.50 ERA with 79 strikeouts and 49 walks in 114 innings.
“I think we can challenge for the league title this year,” Madrid said. “I’d be very disappointed if we don’t.”
Junior Angie Yeh, who batted .333, is back at catcher.
No. 7 Maranatha
The Minutemen, thanks to three returning seniors and five returning juniors, appear ready to make a move.
Seniors Alex Hillier (.446, 18 RBIs), Laura Kiralla and Kimi Van Spronsen and juniors Kimmie Sommers and outfielder Marnie Hillier are expected to produce big results for a team that went 9-13 last year.
Sommers batted .343 and will take over the bulk of the pitching duties. She had a 3.02 ERA with 25 strikeouts and two walks last year.
Her freshman sister, Annie, will start at shortstop and junior Nicolby Atallah also may pitch.
“I think we’re ready to challenge,” coach Becca Krueger said. “Everything looks pretty promising.
No. 8 Pasadena Poly
The Panthers did not lose any players and have three seniors on their team.
Was it mentioned that Poly is young?
But then, that means everybody returns from a team that went 12-10 last season.
“What I expect from this group this year is a maturity at the varsity level,” coach Jeff Taylor said. “I think that year of experience should be just right for this team. We have a great group of kids.”
Senior Jordan Richard-Craven batted .437 with 18 RBIs last season.
Kate Hanel and catcher Christina Garza are expected to do well.
The Panthers will be going with three pitchers: freshman Stephanie Tercero, sophomore Michelle Tanner and sophomore Mimi Bea. Tanner pitched 42 innings last year and was 3-4. She also batted .419 with 21 RBIs.
Ally Latta, a junior, will be at second base. She spent most of last year pitching and had a 2.28 ERA and 7-5 record. Sophomore Megan Latta will be at shortstop.
“Our infield will be very good, and we’re really strong up the middle,” Taylor said. “We’re very young, but a very good young team.
“After last year, everyone knows anything can happen and that gives us an advantage. Once we settled in, we played pretty well. I think the timing is for us to take that next step.”
No. 9 Marshall
The Eagles have sent at least one player into a four-year college program the last two seasons, and coach Jason Taylor said one of his best prospects is a senior.
Taylor expects big things from left-handed catcher Jazmin Hernandez. Last season, she batted a team-high .357.
“She’s our marquee player,” he said. “We expect big things out of her. She hits with power, she’s got speed and she can drag bunt.”
Hernandez is one of seven starters returning to a team that went 11-14 last year. They lost their second baseman when she decided she did not want to play this year and then lost their pitcher, Maurae Baker, who transferred. The Eagles, however, did gain a pitcher with experience in Erika James, a sophomore who transferred in from Immaculate Hear.
“We got lucky on our pitching,” Taylor said.
Another newcomer is freshman Jennifer Jimenez, who will step in at second base.
“She has a quick release and decent speed,” Taylor said.
Samantha Camerano and Tawny Lamar will be in the outfield. Camerano batted .296 last season.
“It will be a matter of producing on offense,” Taylor said. “We hope to do well in league, although we know Paraclete is tough. We’re ready to go at it.”
No. 10 Flintridge Sacred Heart
The Tologs lost eight seniors and their head coach, but return their top pitcher, Jessica Ferri, and two coaches familiar with the program: Mary Schneiders and Kirk Nishayama.
Ferri, a junior, had a 0.89 ERA with 112 strikeouts and nine walks last year. She was 6-8 on a team that finished 9-11.
Schneiders was an assistant coach last season and is a graduate of FSHA.
She will work with Nishiyama, who coached Schneiders in high school and also is the cross country coach.
Seniors Amy Leos and Erin Scharre return as well. Leos batted .410 last year with six home runs. Taylor Crotty and catcher Meghan Luera figure to step into starting roles.
“We’ve learned a lot,” Schneiders said of the Tologs’ weekend scrimmages. “But we don’t know who’s going to be batting where or any of that stuff.”