Softball squads face roster rollover
Last spring, two of the three western Nevada County softball teams punched their tickets to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, but each of those rosters have changed dramatically since that time.
In fact, the Bear River, Nevada Union and Forest Lake Christian softball teams are all fairly young this season with some inexperience in key positions. And the uncooperative weather that forced the teams to practice inside, if at all, has continued to delay the development of each team.
But despite the lack of field time, all three coaches see potential in their squads to challenge for or claim another trip to the playoffs.
Last season, Bear River coach Duane Zauner had a roster highlighted with eight underclassmen and nine new varsity players. To say his team was a little green is an understatement.
The Bruins’ pitching staff was young as well, with its two starters Brittney Ceo and Kelly Shepard being a sophomore and a freshman, respectively. After losing three games by only one run, Bear River finished 3-9 in the Pioneer Valley League.
“They didn’t know what to expect or what it takes to win in such a tough league,” Zauner said. “We’re still a young squad this year, but with some experience to fall back on. We still need some growth to take place.”
Nine letterwinners return to the diamond this fall, with the Bruins’ pitching staff looking to be the strength of the team.
Ceo returns as the No. 1 starter, having been named honorable mention all-league last season, with Shepard back as well with a year of varsity competition under her belt. The Bruins’ bullpen also received a lift with ace hurler Lisa Matson transferring to Bear River after playing her freshman season last year as Forest Lake Christian’s No. 1 pitcher.
Back behind the plate this season is sophomore Jenna Wermes, who Zauner wants to have start calling the pitches herself by the end of the year.
Perhaps the team’s biggest gap to fill this season is at shortstop. For the past four years Candice Wermes, now playing on a scholarship for Vanguard, was a regular at the spot hitting better than .400 during that time as well.
The Bruins look to another transfer, senior Traci Hart, to take over at shortstop. Hart transferred to Bear River from Nevada Union this year after sitting out her junior season at Nevada Union.
Joining her in the middle infield at second base is sophomore returner Brooke Mosman if Shepard is pitching – Shepard will play the position if she’s not on the mound. Sophomore Tera Reason will handle the hot corner at third.
Senior captain Rebecca Zauner completes the infield puzzle, playing first base for the third consecutive year having earned honorable mention all-league last season. She also brings back the most experience at the plate, having hit in the four spot last season.
The outfield rotation is still being tweaked, but Zauner is certain that junior Ashley Sawyer will play a leadership role in centerfield, along with being the Bruins’ leadoff hitter. Joining her in the outfield will be a combination of sophomore Casey Vizenor, freshman Tori Humbard and Mosman if Shepard isn’t pitching.
Freshman Kathryn Rabak will act as a utility player seeing time at catcher, first base or third base.
Bear River’s main league competition this year looks to be West Campus, Mira Loma and Colfax.
For the past two seasons, the Miners have attached their name next to the phrase Metro League Softball Champions, but Nevada Union coach Darren Chan warns that the illustrious three-peat will be difficult this season.
“It’s going to be extremely tough based on the inexperience we have now,” Chan said. “We haven’t really had a realistic chance to practice. If we can win our next few games at Granite Bay and Yuba City and get some time on the field, weather permitting, we’ll have a better idea of where we are.”
The Miners return seven letterwinners this season, five of them starters who were named first-team or honorable mention all-league last year. But, the team is without its two middle infielders from last season that made so many plays after shortstop Sarah Nunnink and second baseman Ashley Griggs graduated.
Chan hopes to replace the two infielders with sophomore Kayla Bennett at shortstop and junior Roxanne Ray at second base. Last season Bennett was the Miners’ No. 2 pitcher with a 1.853 ERA that earned her a first-team all-league selection. Ray was an honorable mention selection as an outfielder.
The remainder of the infield will be fairly new as well with senior Corrinne Mead taking over at first base, with junior Khrista Davis, in her first year on the varsity, playing third.
While the infield is inexperienced, Nevada Union’s No. 1 pitcher certainly is not. Senior hurler Rachelle Chan enters the season as the reigning Metro League Most Valuable Player after posting a 1.258 ERA last season. When Chan isn’t pitching, Bennett will take the hill and move Chan to second and Ray to shortstop.
Another honorable mention all-league selection in junior Tawny Gordon returns to work behind the plate at catcher, while senior, 2-year captain Kayla Olson returns from a first-team all-league year to play centerfield. Joining Olson in the outfield are speedy freshman Eva Heppting and junior Andrea Reuter, the MVP of the JV team last season.
While Nevada Union’s defense may still be in the works, the team does return its main hitters in Chan, Olson and Bennett. Olson led the team with a .351 batting average, 14 RBIs, a .398 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage. Bennett hit .297, with Chan totaling 14 RBIs.
The team is still searching for a leadoff hitter, but expects to have Ray hit No. 2 followed by Chan, Olson and Bennett.
Nevada Union has already taken two early losses, losing to McClatchy 2-1 March 22 after Chan threw a one-hitter and then to Kennedy 1-0 the next day with Bennett pitching a two-hitter. The Miners did, however, beat Johnson 10-1.
For the third year, Chan scheduled the entire first half of his Metro schedule on the road with the team knowing what weather in the county is like during March. Which means the Miners get to host Granite Bay, McClatchy and Kennedy all at the end of the season in a stretch of three games that could determine the league champion.
Forest Lake Christian
For the second-straight season, graduation was especially hard on the Forest Lake Christian softball team. The Falcons lost three of their four top hitters in backup pitcher Katie Vierra, first baseman Megan Wisniewski and third baseman Jessica Pearce.
Add to the mix the fact that the team’s No. 1 pitcher Lisa Matson transferred to Bear River, leaving the team without any pitching experience.
“As a first-year coach I just didn’t see it coming,” Forest Lake Christian coach Dave Lockhart said about having no returning pitchers. “Now getting our new pitchers innings will be critical. Just the mental aspect of pitching and getting their velocity up.”
But despite the team’s losses on the mound and at the plate, Lockhart feels like his team’s overall defense is better and faster this season – which he said he needs to count on with inexperienced pitchers.
After playing catcher for three years, senior standout Jessica Lockhart, a three-time captain and a first team all-league player last season, is moving over to shortstop this season as freshman Lindsey Engbrecht takes her spot behind the plate.
Sophomore Rebecca Farnum is slated to play second base with senior Megan Sanders at first base.
Spending time on the mound will be juniors Lauren Schrack and Crystal Johnson.
“Lauren has never really needed to pitch before, but did when she was younger and Crystal pitched when she was younger too and has great form,” Lockhart said.
Fighting for time in the outfield are junior Kara Siegalkoff, sophomore Lindsey Richert, junior Callie Miller, junior Ashley Leppek and sophomore Katie Jones.
At the plate, Lockhart sees Schrack hitting leadoff with Jessica Lockhart at No. 2 or No. 3 with Engbrecht filling the No. 3 or 4 hole.
Woodland Christian and Victory Christian look to be the toughest teams in the Central Valley Christian League again, with the Falcons hoping for rapid growth to challenge for a return trip to the playoffs.
To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail her at email@example.com or call 477-4244.
Coach: Darren Chan (3rd year)
2005 record: 18-10-1
2005 postseason: lost 3-0 to Folsom in first round of Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs
Returning letterwinners: 7
Returning starters: 5
Players lost: Sarah Nunnink, Ashley Griggs, Erin Jacobson, Mackenzie Cole, Christy Kinnard, Rosie Purvis
Key games: April 25 vs. McClatchy, May 2 vs. Kennedy and May 4 vs. Granite Bay
Coach: Duane Zauner (12th year)
2005 record: 13-14 overall, 3-9 PVL
2005 postseason: did not qualify
Returning letterwinners: 9
Returning starters: 6
Key players lost: Candice Wermes and Katie Redmond
Key games: today vs. Mira Loma, April 18 vs. Colfax
Forest Lake Christian
Coach: Dave Lockhart (2nd year)
2005 record: 9-3 CVCL
2005 postseason: lost to Turlock Christian 3-1 in first round of Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs
Returning letterwinners: 7
Returning starters: 4
Players lost: Katie Vierra, Megan Wisniewski, Jessica Pearce and Lisa Matson
Key games: today vs. Foresthill, April 5 vs. Victory Christian, May 12 vs. Woodland Christian
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.