By most accounts the Bear River softball team is the most complete it has been since it won the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III championship in 2012, A title run that capped five section championships in a span of six years.
And while the 2015 Lady Bruins are three-time reigning league champs and return last season’s MVP Nerissa Long, the Pioneer Valley League is chalked full of talented teams looking to unseat Bear River from its league thrown.
“There are five teams that are strong (in the PVL),” said Bear River head coach Duane Zauner. “Five teams competing for three playoff spots.”
Zauner said 2014 league co-champ Lincoln along with Placer, Center and Colfax all boast quality teams.
The Lady Bruins blasted through their non-league schedule, going 8-2 and winning seven straight after opening 1-2. But the league season is a whole new beast.
Bear River was riding its winning momentum until a 2-0 extra-inning loss to Lincoln in their league opener last week put an early dent in their goal to win their fourth straight league title.
A single loss in league play in no way knocks Bear River out of title contention, after all they have claimed the league title with 9-1 PVL records the past three seasons, but any more blemishes on the league slate will put the Lady Bruins in the unenviable position of needing help.
Leaning on the likes of Long (4-1, 0.71 ERA, 55 strikeouts) and Arielle Koerber (3-1, 0.00 ERA, 42 strikeouts) from the circle, and Hope Ferri (.379 batting average), Taylor Bonnifield (.364 batting average, two home runs), Mikayla Laymance (.308 batting average, three doubles) and Danielle Crilly (.346 batting average) at the plate, the Lady Bruins are a top contender for the PVL title. But, when the target is as big as it is on the Lady Bruins’ back, they will get each team’s best shot game-in and game-out.
With league play set to get into full swing next week, here is a look at how the rest of the league has fared in non-league play.
Lincoln (11-3, 1-0 PVL)
Last season: 15-14, 9-1 PVL (co-champs)
The Fighting Zebras are ranked No. 62 in the state after winning 11-of-14 games to start the season. They are led by a powerful offense that averages 9.2 runs per game. Lincoln is led by junior Siena Stone (.545 batting average, 10 RBIs), sophomore Alexis Sheiring (.513 batting average, 12 RBIs, five doubles, three triples, one home run), junior Matty Cunningham (.576 batting average, 12 RBIs, five doubles), and freshmen Deja Ross (.511 batting average, nine RBIs, seven doubles, three triples). In addition to that fearsome foursome, the rest of the lineup can hit as well. As a team, Lincoln is batting .421. The Fighting Zebras are also brutal on the base paths with 34 stolen bases in 35 attempts. Ross leads the team with 10 swiped bags.
From the circle, Lincoln leans on Sheiring (4-2, 2,58 ERA), but has three other capable hurlers as well.
Lincoln’s next game is Wednesday at home against Colfax
Placer (6-6-2, 0-0 PVL)
Last season: 14-10, 5-5 PVL (third)
The Hillgals are led by senior catcher/third baseman Sarah Hansen, who leads the team with a .400 batting average to go with 11 RBIs and a home run. Placer also has junior Sarah Kosmata, who boasts .396 batting average, 16 RBIs, two home runs. The Hillgals average .312 as a team and have shown solid power with six home runs coming from four different players.
From the circle, senior Amanda Geil pulls the majority of the innings, going 4-4 this season with a 1.83 ERA. Placer does struggle in the field with 32 errors through 14 games.
On average, the Hillgals score 6.3 runs per game, and yield 4.8 runs per game.
Placer opens league play Wednesday against Foothill.
Center (5-2, 0-0 PVL)
Last season: 5-12, 4-6 PVL (fourth)
The Lady Cougars are a defensive minded team with good pitching. They are led by their two top pitchers, senior Haileigh Arthur-Tardiff (2-1, 0.81 ERA) and junior Kasey Bagelmann (3-1, 1.42 ERA). Center has allowed just 2.42 runs per game, second in the league to Bear River’s 1.36 runs per game allowed.
From the plate, Center is again led by Arthur-Tardiff, who has 11 hits in 22 at-bats, including six doubles, a triple and a home run. The Lady Cougars also get power hitting from Samantha Baker (.333 batting average, three doubles, two home runs).
Center opens league play Wednesday at Bear River.
Colfax (2-10, 0-0 PVL)
Last season: 5-11, 3-7 PVL (fifth)
The Lady Falcons have struggled this season, winning just two games, but Zauner said he never sleeps on Colfax, because they play Bear River tough no matter what the sport is and no matter the records.
Colfax is led by senior Jenna Patterson (.355 batting average, 14 RBIS, two home runs) and junior Julia Cummings (.400 batting average, eight runs scored).
The lady Falcons do struggle to score, plating an average of 3.5 runs per game, while yielding 9.6 runs per game.
Foothill (2-13, 0-0 PVL)
Last season: 3-21, 0-10 PVL (last)
The Lady Mustangs have shown the ability to score, notching an average of 4.8 runs per game, but have real issues with stopping their opponent from hanging big numbers up, allowing 15.8 runs per game this season. In 12 of their 13 losses, the opponent has scored more than 10 runs and on three occasions Foothill has allowed 20 or more runs in a game.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All stats are courtesy of MaxPreps.com
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With a balanced offensive attack and a strong defensive effort, the Nevada Union football team went on the road Friday night and knocked off Napa, 33-14