Preseason Top Ten: 1. Bonita, 2. San Dimas, 3. South Hills, 4. Glendora, 5. West Covina, 6. Bishop Amat, 7. Northview, 8. Diamond Bar, 9. Los Altos, 10. Charter Oak.
Above: Bonita softball players Breeanna Sandoval ,left, with Chloe Wurst,
center, and Karisa Crawford (Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham)
By Fred J. Robledo
With the influx of quality freshman and the emergence of several new fresh faces in the circle, the 2010 softball season promises to be full of surprises.
Last season Glendora and San Dimas High Schools advanced to CIF-Southern Section Division title games but came up empty, leaving the Valley hungry for a section title.
Bonita, South Hills and West Covina were among the pleasant surprises a year ago, but they won’t be fooling anyone this season, not with the quality pitching and hitting they they return. While usual contenders like Los Altos and Glendora could slip after losing two of the best pitchers in the area, San Dimas figures to pick up where it left off while the re-emergence of old powers like Diamond Bar and Bishop Amat are on the verge of breakout seasons. All of this brings us to only one thing, the 2010 softball top ten preview.
1. Bonita (20-6-1)
The Bearcats were the come-out-of-nowhere team of the 2009 season, losing two-out-of-three to eventual Miramonte League champion Los Altos, but sending a message they mean business in 2010, especially with pitcher Chloe Wurst back, among the top pitchers if not the best in the area.
Wurst was 11-5 with a 0.59 ERA and 170 strikeouts as a junior, and is coming off a wonderful winter in preparation for her senior season.
“It’s great having Chloe back, she’s worked extremely hard, has experience, is a competitor, and just about every other cliche that goes with it,” said Bearcats coach Ken Carlson. “So yeah, we’re hoping she can lead us to the promise land.
“We talked last year about this being the year to (unseat four-time defending league champ Los Altos) and make a run at a divisional title. I think we’ve put in the work, now it’s a matter of seeing how it translates on the field.”
Senior Jackie Campa, who batted .380, moves to second base and will bat leadoff, with freshman Liza Liddell taking over at short.
With senior Clarice Spathias (.432 with 16 RBIs) at third base, the Bearcats feel good about their offense and defense.
The outfield is led by one of the area’s best, junior Breeanna Sandoval, who hit .407, along with a freshman outfielder who Carlson said reminds him of Sandoval in Jazzlyn Costa.
“I’m expecting big things from our freshman, they’re not ordinary freshman,” Carlson said. “I already liked what we had coming back, but when you add two talented travel ball players to your lineup, it makes us that much better.”
2. San Dimas (25-5)
The Saints’ stinging 3-2 loss to Whittier Christian in the Division V finals should serve as motivation, especially with four-year varsity returnee Kortnie Clark returning to the circle after going 21-5 with a .099 ERA.
The Saints do lose all-everything outfielder Ariel Shore and pitcher Gipsy Ramirez, but with the ball in Clark’s hands on a permanent basis, there is no reason to believe they won’t be competing for another Valle Vista league title and Division 5 crown.
“We lost our one through four hitters, but we have the nucleus of our team back, and that starts in the circle with Kortnie,” Saints coach Don Pollard said. “We’re going to rally around her experience, leadership, and we have some new players that we believe will make a big impact.”
Senior Kayla Norrie (.319 average) will take over at catcher, replacing Yumiko Hiroto, and Courtney Hine (.425) will fill the void left in center after the departure of Shore.
The Saints still have their anchor Aleena Avalos at short after hitting .307, and with freshman Deenah De Luis at second, Candice Nunez at third and Sara Moore platooning between first and third, there is a solid mix of youth and experience to go with a quality ace.
“It’s the same old story, if Kortnie can hold them down, we’ll scratch out a few runs and win some games. The past few years we have gotten off to some slow starts, that’s what we we hope to avoid this season.”
3. South Hills (16-10-1)
The Huskies are no longer just a baseball school, the softball made big strides last year led by arguably the area’s best catcher, Brittany Rodriguez, who is just a sophomore and already verbally committed to UCLA.
Rodriguez batted .547 with 34 RBIs and four doubles — scary numbers for a freshman.
“My only worries are what other coaches are going to do against her,” South Hills coach Scott Fisch said. “She’s a threat every time she steps up. She has the potential to change the dynamic on every at bat.”
It doesn’t end there, with Samantha Nieves (.378) moving from short to third and powerful sophomore Kristine Stewart (.422) taking over at short and freshman newcomer Alexis Robles at second, the Huskies are solid defensively and offensively.
When one considers outfielder Vanessa Molina returning after batting .505 and sophomore pitcher Sydney La Follette back after going 8-4 with a 2.54 ERA, the Huskies are a force to be reckoned with.
“Based on the returners and the newcomers I’ve seen, there is no reason to believe we won’t be one of the area’s top teams,” Fisch said., “West Covina beat us out for the (San Antonio League) title last year. That’s our goal to win the title, but we’re thinking beyond that. We would like to make a deep playoff run too.”
4. Glendora (22-5)
The defending Sierra League champions lose player and pitcher of the year Dana Waldusky to graduation, but junior Carly Argyle is ready to take over in the circle after going 4-2 in a back-up roles last season with a 1.82 ERA.
In fact, when Waldusky was sidelined during a San Dimas tournament game last year against Bonita, it was Argyle who stepped in and led the Tartans to a 2-1 victory.
With one of the area’s best shortstops back in senior Natalie Hernandez (.298 average), who was co-MVP of the Sierra League her sophomore season, coach Reese Mitchell is optimistic.
“If we can get Natalie back to playing like she was when she was a sophomore, skies the limit for this team,” Mitchell said.
With speedy Kristen Peterson batting leadoff along with Audrie Becerra’s bat in the lineup, the Tartans have experience. Add sophomore pitcher Taylor Langdon to go go with Argyle, and no wonder Mitchell is cautiously optimistic.
“Peterson can run like the wind, if we get her on base, we can do a lot of good things,” Mitchell said. “You know, we have the potential to very good, or we can lay an egg.
“The difference will be that we have to play some defense. We’re not going to get 10 to 12 strikeouts a game, we’re going to have to play defense and swing the bat, it’s that simple.”
5. West Covina (16-11)
The defending San Antonio League champs have the core of its team returning plus the addition of junior pitcher Sara Brown, who missed most of last season. Now back, Brown gives the Bulldogs a solid one-two punch in the circle along with junior Dakota Monarrez (9-7, 1.62 ERA). Brown, expected to start, was 4-1 with a 0.64 ERA before being sidelined.
With all CIF third baseman Camille Herrera (.389), first baseman Yvette Cano (.420) and shortstop Hailey Balk (.370) all returning, coach Dan Woodward is exciting about the possibilities.
“We want to repeat as San Antonio League champs, that’s our goal,” Woodward said. “We went to the quarterfinals of the playoffs last year, and want to take it a step further in that regard also.
“You know, we had a three year span where we were down, but I feel like with the girls we have coming back and the steps we made last year that we can compete with anyone.”
6. Bishop Amat (18-12)
The Lancers have the luxury of deciding between three quality pitchers, seniors Stephanie Beaty, Alysha Baker and freshman Sabrina Anguiano, but if Natallie Sanchez (who transferred from CIF-SS Divisional champ Whittier Christian) becomes eligible, the Lancers could have something special right away.
As it is, they Lancers are solid defensively, but they need to improve an offense that batted just .254 last season, though they did compete against a tougher schedule than most.
They return arguably the area’s best defensive catcher in junior Jackie Carlin, with All-Del Rey League junior Alma Cortez (.296) moving from first base to center field.
Senior shortstop Kim Hernandez has swung the bat well over the winter, and at first is freshman Alexis Gonzalez, the younger sister of standout baseball and football player Wallace Gonzalez.
“I think we’re much better than last year,” coach Jesse Mendez said. “We’ve worked so much on our hitting, chemistry and our pitching is going to be fine. We lost some players, but this team is going to swing the bat and score some funs.”
7. Northview (17-9)
After losing stud pitcher Hannah Fraijo, Chrissy McPhail turned heads as her junior replacement last year, going 13-6 with a 1.68 ERA.
With McPhail back her senior season, the Vikings will give the Saints all they can handle for the Valle Vista League title.
With senior outfielder Makaila Garcia returning after batting .398 along with sophomore power hitter Suzie Ortega, who batted .422 which included six home runs, coach Jeff Butler is feeling good about the Vikings’ potential.
They also return sophomore second baseman Jazmin Chavez (.333) and five freshman that Butler feels are difference makers, especially freshman cousins Erin and Sarina Jaramillo, who will play third and short respectively.
“Those two (Jaramillo cousins) are blue chippers,” Butler said. “They shore up our infield. We lost three seniors but when you add five talented freshman, that allows you to not just pick up where you left off, but move beyond that.
“We realize San Dimas is still the league champ, but we feel like we’ve got a nice team that will compete for the title too.”
8. Diamond Bar (8-15)
Brahmas coach Roberta Garcia-Uyemura says they have the best freshman class since the 2001 freshman class that won three league titles and advanced to the playoffs all four years.
The current freshman class includes a pair of pitchers in Danielle Wilson, Nicole Feryanitz and sophomore returner Julie Walters, who are all battling for the starting spot.
Already, the Brahmas have arguably the areas best shortstop in junior Stephany LaRosa, who is committed to UCLA after hitting .631 with 18 RBIs and seven homers as a sophomore.
“We’ve had good players come through Diamond Bar and Stephany has the potential to be the most decorated out of all of them,” Garcia-Uyemura said. “What’s impressing me the most is she’s stepping up her leadership role. We’ve got a young and talented team, and Stephanie is someone they look up to. She’s our leader on and off the field.”
The Brahmas will start freshman Amber Montes at second base, Wilson can also play first, and Feryanitz will be in the outfield when she’s not pitching.
They also have a gem at catcher in sophomore Liz Rubalcava, who transferred from Pomona and is making an immediate impact.
“It’s nice to have that freshman wave of travel ball players in your program to go with what you have coming back,” Garcia-Uyemura said. “It gives us a nice blend of youth with steady returners like (La Rosa).
“You can tell the atmosphere is real positive, and these girls are exciting about making a name for themselves.”
9. Los Altos (23-7)
The Conquerors are a question mark after graduating one of the school’s all-time best pitchers, Diana-Lynn Patterson, who played a pivotal role in helping the Conquerors win four straight Miramonte League title.
Sophomore Jennipher Solis will replace Patterson in the circle, but she will need help from the Conquerors’ experienced defense if the they’re going to battle with the likes of Bonita in search of a fifth title.
The Conquerors return junior shortstop Courtney Gano, widely considered one of the best along with Diamond Bar’s La Rosa. Gano is committed to the University of Washington after batting .427, and they also welcome back sophomore Lexi Garcia, who was a Miramonte League first team third baseman as a freshman.
With Mariah Midyette at second base, and newcoming catcher Alyssa Villalpando, who transferred from South El Monte, coach Lydell McCullough isn’t conceding anything to anyone.
“We’re still the champs till you knock us off,” McCullough said. “You can’t replace a Diana, but (Solis) throws strikes and has a lot of upside.
“The cupboard is not bare, not when you return a Courtney Gano and Lexi Garcia. If we play defense, we can play with anyone.”
10. Charter Oak (14-12)
For the past several years the only reason the Chargers haven’t been among the area’s elite is because of inconsistent pitching, which coach Scott Higuera hopes will change.
Junior Cassie Andrews is back in the circle after going 8-9 with a 3.55 ERA, but she has plenty of help defensively, sophomore shortstop Kayla Papez, first baseman Jennifer Gonzalez. and all-league second baseman Monique Villasenior returning.
Higuera also likes his five freshman players, most notably starters Nicki Sprague (outfield) and Sam Valdez (third base), but again, it comes back to pitching.
“She’s (Andrews) improved and worked hard in the offseason,” Higuera said., “Mentally she’s ready to carry the team. We’ve got some other pitchers ready to help and take the pressure off, but I think she’s ready for a breakout season.”
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