Bear River softball opens bid for 4th straight PVL title against Lincoln
By the numbers
Bear River leaders
Nerissa Long (4-1) - 29.2IP, 55K, 15BB, 0.71 ERA
Arielle Koerber (3-1) - 30.1IP, 42K, 6BB, 0.00 ERA
Hope Ferri - .379 BA, 11H, 3 doubles,
Taylor Bonnifield - .364 BA, 2 HR
Danielle Crilly - .346 BA, 5 RBIs
Mikayla Laymance - .310 BA, 6 RBIs, 3 doubles
Kaitlyn Maddux - .250 BA, 9 RBIs, 3 doubles
Bear River’s softball team has been the class of the Pioneer Valley League for years, and this season is no different as the reigning league co-champs look to earn their fourth straight PVL banner.
“You win the league it gives you a good seed in playoffs and opens the door to (playing for the section title),” Bear River head coach Duane Zauner said. “Our first goal is to be league champion. Go into the playoffs with confidence, have some momentum heading into the playoffs and hope to stay hot.”
After stumbling out of the gates with two losses in their first three games, the Lady Bruins have since found their stride, winning seven straight as it prepares for the opening of Pioneer Valley League play today against 2014 co-league champ Lincoln (10-2).
“Nicki Whittle (junior center fielder) hit it on the head after we lost to (Nevada Union) and that made us 1-2,” said Zauner. “We had the Jackson Tournament up next and she said ‘that was where we turned it around last season.’”
The Lady Bruins swept through the tourney winning all four of their games by a combined score of 22-0.
“It was that little spark that we needed,” said Zauner. “It reminded us that, hey, we can do this.”
They haven’t lost since.
Bear River is led by its pitching, this season boasting one of the best 1-2 pitching combinations in the section with Nerissa Long and Arielle Koerber.
Long, who won the PVL MVP as a sophomore last year, has thrown 29.2 innings this season with 55 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.71. She is 4-1 from the circle. Long has become known for her velocity, but said she has started to develop other pitches and that her spin on the ball has improved this season.
Koerber, a sophomore, has thrown 30.1 innings this season with 42 strikeouts and is yet to allow an earned run. Koerber is 3-1. Freshmen Kaitlyn Maddux will also be called on to pitch from time to time, said Zauner.
“They have really good placement and movement,” said senior catcher Mikayla Laymance of the Lady Bruin pitchers. “They don’t make me block too often.”
Laymance, a team captain, holds down the No. 5 spot in the lineup, batting .308 with six RBIs and three doubles. Laymance is also a strong defensive catcher who has been a member of the varsity squad since her freshmen season.
“The only way a pitcher of Nerissa’s caliber is successful is if she has a good catcher behind the plate,” said Zauner. “It’s a big challenge and (Laymance) has stepped up to that challenge.”
Laymance is one of just two seniors on the team, the other being Hope Ferri, who currently leads the team in hits (11) and batting average (.379).
“She is a kid that loves the game,” said Zauner. “She loves to work, she loves to practice, none of this up and down stuff. There she is every day. I can count on her.”
Ferri plays second base for the Lady Bruins defense, which is much improved, said Zauner.
“I believe the last three weeks we’ve really turned our defense around,” he said. “We are starting to play much better defensively, and to have that to go along with the pitching — I mean we’ve only given up 13 runs in 10 games.
Other returning starters on the infield are Danielle Crilly at third base, and Indyia Vierra at shortstop. Taylor Bonnifield will play first base, replacing Dayna Wicks who graduated.
Vierra is just a sophomore, but has the confidence of her coach, batting leadoff for the Lady Bruins.
“She adds a little punch to the line up,” Zauner said. “She has the ability to drive the ball.”
The Lady Bruins have pop from top to bottom as eight different players have extra base hits and four have gone deep. Bonnifield leads the team with two home runs and freshmen Kaitlyn Maddux leads the team with nine RBIs.
The outfield is comprised of Whittle, Koerber (when she is not pitching), and Kaitlyn Maddux. Brieana Maddux will be the designated player, adding another strong hitter to the lineup. Alex Ecke, Camille Faatz, Andrea Hardin and Maya Shine will all play important roles for the Bruins as well.
Zauner said the 2015 Lady Bruins are most complete team he’s has since they won the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III title in 2012, their fifth section title under Zauner.
Zauner went on to add that this team has a winner’s mind set. That they expect to win.
“When you expect to win there is just something a little deeper,” he said. “You just don’t give up, you just don’t. There isn’t any quit here.”
“We have a different mind set this year than we have had the past couple of years,” she said. “I think that we have more confidence in each other and we communicate a lot better. We all know what we have to get done.”
The road to their fourth straight PVL championship and back to the top of the section starts at 4 p.m. today against Lincoln at Bear River.
“It will be a war,” said Zauner of the matchup. “It will be fun, but I’m trying to downplay it a bit. We need to play it like it’s just another game, go inning by inning.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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