Softball Preview: South Hills, Chino Hills, Bishop Amat and St. Lucy’s a dynamite Fab Four


By Fred J. Robledo
November’s early signing period was all the proof of what kind of high school softball season that awaits.

St. Lucy’s and Chino Hills each had four players sign national letters of intent and the west Valley had 21 players in all announce their college intentions.

That doesn’t include the wealth of talented underclassmen that have made verbal commitments to help make the annual San Gabriel Valley Tribune preseason top 10 rankings a tough list to crack, starting with the only team to advance to a divisional championship last year, South Hills. (To continue click thread)

Tribune Softball Preseason Top Ten
1. South Hills (21-8)
2. Chino Hills (25-6)
3. Bishop Amat (25-4)
4. St. Lucy’s (16-13)
5. Bonita (23-5)
6. Glendora (17-7)
7. Northview (17-10-1)
8. Los Altos (14-8)
9. Charter Oak (11-14)
10. San Dimas (21-8)

1. South Hills (21-8)

The Huskies have knocked on the door of a divisional title for two consecutive years in advancing to back-to-back title games, but still haven’t brought home a championship plaque.

If this isn’t the year, then when is it?

But then again, South Hills coach Scott Fisch said qualifying for the playoffs is no sure thing in the Sierra League, which includes defending champion Chino Hills, St. Lucy’s, Ayala and Charter Oak.

“What I told the girls is we could either win every game and go to the finals or not make the playoffs,” Fisch said. “We know we have a quality team, one of the best teams on paper we’ve had in years. But you look around league and what Chino Hills and St. Lucy’s have coming back and you realize there are no guarantees. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

The Huskies return arguably the area’s most feared hitter in UCLA-bound catcher Britney Rodriguez, a two-time Tribune first-team selection who teams constantly pitch around, and for good reason.

Rodriguez finished 2011 by hitting .457 with 34 RBIs and eight home runs, which also included eight doubles and 30 runs scored.

But Rodriguez is just a start.

Senior shortstop Kristen Stewart is heading to the University of Utah. Not only is she one of the best defensive infielders, she hit .326 with 28 RBIs and seven doubles.

Junior second baseman Lexi Robles is beginning her third year on varsity and combined with Stewart to give the Huskies one of the best middle infields in the area. Robles hit .360 with 19 RBIs, six doubles and two home runs.

And of course there is senior pitcher Sydney La Follette, who might not be the most intimidating or hardest thrower in the area, but few have been as clutch in the playoffs.

La Follette was 17-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 46 strikeouts, but she’s also a force at the plate. She hit .414 with 31 RBIs and six home runs.

With others such as sophomore outfielder Brittney Amezquita, junior outfielder Breanna Duran and Wayne State-bound Sarah Macias, it’s no wonder the Huskies were No. 2 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 preseason poll.

2. Chino Hills (25-6)

South Hills might be the area’s top preseason team, but the defending Sierra League champion Huskies – those other Huskies – look mighty good on paper, too.

Chino Hills, ranked third in Division 3 behind South Hills, returns one of the best all-around players, senior shortstop Nikki Girard, who is on her way to Arizona State. Girard batted .378 with 23 RBIs, 13 doubles and is a vacuum at short.

Senior pitcher Nikki Innamorato, who is going to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was 18-6 with a 1.50 ERA with 128 strikeouts in 159 innings. The Huskies also have super sophomore Patricia Parks, who can pitch and made a huge impact at the plate as a freshman.

Parks hit .387 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. In 46 innings in the circle, she had a 2.09 ERA with 43 strikeouts.

Senior catcher Paige Gumz is a returning captain and is heading for Fresno State. Gumz batted .392 with five doubles and 15 RBIs. Senior third baseman Garie Blando gives the Huskies four players signing with Division I schools. Blando is going to UNLV after hitting .421 with 25 RBIs, five doubles, four triples and three home runs.

3. Bishop Amat (25-4)

The Lancers are not as senior-heavy as the other top contenders, but they’re just as talented.

Junior pitcher Sabrina Anguiano returns after being injured most of last year. As a freshman, Anguiano was 10-6 with an impressive 0.79 ERA. She might have won more games, but Amat only batted .261 as a team.

“She looks better than ever,” Lancers coach Jesse Mendez said. “She has better command of her pitches and with stronger bats in our lineup, we should give her help.”

Amat’s big veteran is senior shortstop Cassie Padilla, who is going to Santa Clara. Padilla batted an impressive .512 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs last year.

Along with Padilla, junior catcher Alexis Gonzalez has given a verbal commitment to Oregon State after hitting .411 with six homers and 37 RBIs.

Sophomore outfielder Amanda Sanchez already has committed to Missouri and junior Victoria Saucedo has verbally committed to Utah State.

With freshman Eryn Sustayta (first base), Miranda Larios (outfield) and junior designated hitter Kristina Villalobos expected to make big contributions, Amat has more firepower than a year ago.

Bishop Amat, who lost to South Hills in last year’s semifinals, was ranked third in Division 3 behind South Hills and Chino Hills, respectively.

“Last year we were a one-through-seven (offensive) team in the lineup,” Mendez said. “This year we have nine strong bats. We’re younger than some teams, but I love what we have.”

4. St. Lucy’s (16-13)

The Regents return arguably the area’s best pitcher in senior left-hander Danielle O’Toole.

O’Toole started slowly last year because of an injury, but by the end she was dominant in helping the Regents advance to the Division 3 quarterfinals. She finished 13-10 with a 2.39 ERA and 149 strikeouts.

O’Toole, on her way to San Diego State, threw back-to-back shutouts in the first and second rounds of the Division 3 playoffs and won each game 1-0.

Eventual champion Oaks Christian eliminated the Regents 4-0 in the quarterfinals, and for the Regents to have an opportunity to go a step farther it must improve on a .243 team batting average.

On paper, the Regents have the players to do it.

Infielder Danielle Mavridis signed with the University of San Diego after hitting .357 with 11 doubles and a team-leading 30 hits.

Third baseman Brandi Harkness signed with the University of St. Joseph’s after batting a team-best .380 to go with 12 RBIs and three homers.

And infielder Laura Swan, going to the University of Illinois-Chicago, batted .347 with 19 RBIs and three home runs.

5. Bonita (23-5)

The back-to-back league champions from the Miramonte and Hacienda leagues, respectively, lose Tribune Player of the Year Courtney Gano and three-time Tribune first-team outfielder Breanna Sandoval. But they do return the area’s best sophomore pitcher, Anissa Sanchez.

You couldn’t tell Sanchez was a freshman last year. She pitched as well as anyone while finishing 22-5 with a 1.34 ERA and 107 strikeouts. She also batted .283.

The Bearcats were eliminated in the second round of the difficult Division 2 playoffs and begin the season ranked ninth in Division 2.

“This year we’re going to have to grow as a team,” Bearcats coach Ken Carlson said. “We have the potential to be really good, but we lost some leadership in Gano and Sandoval and will be looking for players to step up and assume that role.

“We’re young in a lot of areas, but we also have a lot of experienced players coming back. If we jell the way I think we can, there’s no reason we can’t win another league title and go on a playoff run. And with Anissa back, you know you’re always going to be strong in the (circle), so that’s a good place to have one of your best players back.”

Junior Jazzlyn Costa will take over for Sandoval in center field and her speed makes her one of the best in the area on the bases.

Costa batted .489 with six doubles, 16 RBIs and 24 runs scored a year ago.

Also back is junior Liza Liddell, a third-year varsity infielder taking over for Gano at shortstop. Liddell batted .427 with 12 RBIs and four doubles.

Juniors Corinna Liscano, Michelle Whit, Rebecca Orozco and senior outfielder Danielle Smith give the Bearcats experienced returnees along with a pair of dynamite freshman in Veronica Ortega and Chloe Malenson.

6. Glendora (17-7)

The Tartans tied for third in their first year in the Baseline League and reached the Division 2 playoffs, but getting back to the postseason won’t be easy after graduating Audrie Becerra and pitcher Carly Argyle.

The Tartans, however, do return one of the area’s best pitchers in Taylor Langdon, who signed with Fresno State.

In the outfield, the Tartans bring back senior Brandi Wilson and sophomore Erika Rodgers and, if she can stay healthy, sophomore third baseman Alicia Brown.

“Brown can hit the heck out of the ball,” Glendora coach Reese Mitchell said. “And Taylor is a competitor who always battles, but …”

The caution in Mitchell’s voice was about the league and trying to make the playoffs, a step back from the previous years when the Tartans contended for league and CIF titles.

“The key for us is scoring runs and playing better defense,” Mitchell said. “You have to do both in league against Etiwanda, Upland, Los Osos and teams like that. We’re hoping for an opportunity to become a playoff team.

“I don’t know how realistic a league title is, but I’m quietly optimistic we can make the playoffs.”

7. Northview (17-10-1)

The Vikings finished second in the Valle Vista behind San Dimas but return a veteran group that should be favored to take the league title.

Junior shortstop Sarina Jaramillo was one of the area’s best hitters last year in, finishing with a .500 average to go with 20 RBIs and five doubles.

Junior second baseman Erin Jaramillo gives the Vikings a solid middle infield defensively.

Erin Jaramillo can swing the bat too, after finishing with a .403 batting average to go with 23 RBIs and two home runs.

Senior catcher Emily Lewison is back after hitting .386 with six doubles, three homers and senior Suzette Ortega returns after hitting .455 with five doubles and four home runs.

Ana Mejia is back in the circle after going 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA as a freshman, and sophomores Alexas Contreras, Jocelyn Marquez, Haley Gomez and Marissa Chacon made big contributions as freshmen.

8. Los Altos (14-8)

The Conquerors figure to give Bonita the strongest challenge for the Hacienda League title, thanks to returning senior outfielder Mariah Midyette, who is heading to Bucknell University after batting .314 with 11 RBIs and two doubles.

The Conquerors’ other major contributor is senior catcher Alyssa Villalpando who is heading to the University of Hawaii.

Villalpando hit .375 with four home runs, four doubles and two triples a year ago.

Like Bonita, the Conquerors also have a talented pitcher in the circle in senior Jennipher Solis, who was 12-4 with a 1.31 ERA and 59 strikeouts.

9. Charter Oak (11-14)

The Chargers have a solid returning team but have the difficult task of competing in the Sierra League and qualifying for a playoff spot.

Junior centerfielder Nicki Sprague is among the area’s best hitters. She hit .465 with 17 RBIs and 12 doubles.

Senior Monique Villasenor batted .304 with three home runs and 17 RBIs and junior Samantha Valdez batted .500 with five home runs and 28 RBIs.

Overall, Charter Oak batted .380 as a team with 18 home runs, but the Chargers need improvement in the circle.

That responsibility may go to sophomore Brooke Clemetson, who was 3-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 75 innings as a freshman.

10. San Dimas (21-8)

The defending Valle Vista League champions graduate the trio of Aleena Avalos, Courtney Hine and Sara Moore, but junior pitchers Elizabeth Celaya and Kali Now return for the rebuilding Saints, who always are among the Valley’s best.

Sophomore infielder Briana Quintana (.468) and junior Deenah San Luis (.463) figure to give the Saints much-needed offense.

626-962-8811, ext. 2161


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