Softball teams shoot for playoffs
Last spring offered a solid season for the three area softball programs with the Nevada Union and Forest Lake Christian each qualifying for the playoffs and Bear River finishing one game short of the postseason.
And, despite each of the three programs losing their No. 1 pitchers and a core of their starting lineups, the outlook looks promising again for each team to be in the playoff picture by season’s end.
Going into the final two league games last year, the Bruins were No. 2 in the Pioneer Valley League (the top three teams make the playoffs) only to lose the final two games by scores of 2-0 and 2-1 to fall just out of reach of the playoffs.
Veteran coach Duane Zauner lost six of his starting players from that team, but believes that this year’s team is capable of performing just as well, if not better.
The 2005 Bruins feature eight underclassmen and nine new varsity players. While he hopes to advance the younger players as fast as he can, Zauner has implemented a theme of “take the season one game at time,” in hopes of encouraging growth and making the most out of every game.
Sophomore Britney Ceo will take the mound as the Bruins top hurler – a righty who is able to pitch her spots well. Joining Ceo in the rotation is freshman Kelly Shepard. who is more fastball orientated with a nice changeup.
Jenna Wermes, a freshman, will log most of the minutes behind the plate.
While the battery for the Bruins will be fairly inexperienced, three of the four infielders from last year return. Four-year starter Candice Wermes, one of the team captains, leads the way at shortstop. She is joined by two-year starters Ashley Sawyer, a sophomore, at second base and Rebecca Zauner, a junior, at first base.
Another one of the team’s captains, senior Katie Redmond, will anchor the outfield as freshman Brooke Mosman and Jasmine McGown look to see significant playing time in the outfield as well. Junior Courtney Williford, who Zauner compliments as having great positioning skills, Andrea Goodnight and Kellee Morgado will also log some innings in the outfield.
At the plate, the Bruins will look to Wermes and Zauner for big hits at the No. 3 and No. 4 holes in the lineup, along with leadoff hitter Sawyer, who is doing a good job at getting on base thus far. At No. 2 will be McGown, who has shown solid bunting skills and good speed on the base paths.
“You know, I don’t feel like we have any real weaknesses this year and not necessarily any huge strength areas either,” Zauner said. “We will be solid defensively and if you give us even a chance to win, we will be able to win.”
Despite losing his No. 1 pitcher and Metro Conference MVP, Becky Dowd, Nevada Union coach Darren Chan is confident that his bullpen will not skip a beat, especially with the middle of his defense returning intact – leading him to believe that opponents will still have a tough time scoring on his Miner squad.
Nevada Union made history last season after earning the school’s first-ever softball league championship, going 11-1 and losing only to Woodland.
Last season’s backup pitcher Rachelle Chan, a movement pitcher, will be the team’s No. 1 starter with freshman Kayla Bennett, a hard-thrower with a great changeup, earning the No. 2 spot. Senior hurler Christy Kinnard will be counted on to pitch some relief innings. Dowd, who starred as NU’s ace last season, is playing for a traveling club softball team this spring.
Seniors Sarah Nunnink (shortstop) and Ashley Griggs (second base) and junior Kayla Olson (center field) return to make the middle of the field a hard place to attack the Miners. Bennett and Chan will play first base when not pitching and Erin Jacobson, at third base, rounds out the remainder of the infield. Sophomore Tawny Gordon will work with the pitchers behind the plate.
Patrolling the outfield will be sophomores Roxanne Ray and Rosie Purvis, along with juniors Corrine Mead and Jaleen Waller.
Chan also hopes to see good things from transfer student Mackenzie Cole, an infielder, who is recovering from a shoulder injury.
Nunnink, a second-team, all-Metro player, will leadoff again this year at the plate with Griggs and Bennett next in the lineup. Olson, a returning first-team, all-league player, will be the cleanup hitter with Chan, a second-team, all-league player, batting in the fifth spot.
“We are solid defensively again this year, but the big difference will be at the plate,” Chan said. “The core group we lost had some big bats. With our defense and pitching being solid, it will be a matter of driving in the big run.
“If we can’t get big hits – that will be our downfall.”
Forest Lake Christian
Graduation was hard on the Falcons this season, as the team lost almost the entire middle of its defense, as FLC said goodbye to its No. 1 pitcher, shortstop, second baseman and centerfielder. The good news is that what the team lost on defense, the Falcons may be able to compensate for at the plate with four solid hitters returning from last season’s Central Valley Christian League championship team.
Leadoff hitter Jessica Lockhart, a junior, will pace the Falcons at the plate as will seniors Katie Vierra, Megan Wisniewski and Jessica Pearce.
“Hitting has always kept us in ball games,” Forest Lake Christian coach Dave Lockhart said. “We will continue to work on our hitting again this year and hope it stays strong.”
Leading the way on the mound this season will be freshman Lisa Matson who has been recovering from an ankle injury and hasn’t see much time on the diamond just yet. Vierra will be the team’s No. 2 starter who was a backup pitcher last season. Also stepping into the pitching mix will be Bethany Huusfeldt, a freshman who has only been playing softball for a few years, but comes from a long line of baseball/softball athletes.
Jessica Lockhart looks to help balance the inexperience of the pitching staff with her solid experience behind the plate catching.
Making up the infield will be Ashley Gallegos at second base, Wisniewski at first base, shortstops Lisa Mattson and Lockhart, with Jessica Pearce holding down the hot corner at third base.
Filling out the outfield are Kara Siegalkoff, Megan Sanders and Julie Moore.
“We are a young team, especially this year,” Coach Lockhart said. “At least three to five of our players have never picked up a softball before. But we do have 16 girls out for the team this year helping to build the program stronger for the future. We do, however, have a really strong sophomore class and look to be competitive in our league again this year.”
2005 prep softball
Coach: Duane Zauner (11th year)
2004 record: 18-10 overall and 7-5 in the PVL
Playoffs: missed qualifying by one game
Players lost: Nichole Tunget, LeAnn Chizek, Tricia Michaud, Kelley Cleveland, Brooke Spears and Tiffany Michaud
Returning starters: Four
Important game: April 28 at home against Mira Loma
Coach’s comment: “We are blessed with our defensive play this year,” Zauner said. “But we don’t have much experience at the pitching or catching positions and are asking some young players to step up and succeed in those spots.”
Forest Lake Christian
Coach: Dave Lockhart (first year)
2004 record: 16-8, 8-1 CVCL Champions
Playoffs: Lost to Orestimba 15-0 in the semi-final round of the Division V Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs
Players lost: Grace Messing, Joy Hicks, Megan Paulk and Mary Fogle
Returning starters: Six
Important game: April 15 at home against Victory Christian
Coach’s comment: “We are a young team, especially this year,” Lockhart said. “At least three to five of our players have never picked up a softball before. …We do, however, have a really strong sophomore class and look to be competitive in our league again this year.”
Coach: Darren Chan (second year)
2004 record: 21-9-1, 11-1 Metro Conference Champions
Playoffs: Went 2-1, opened with a win then suffered a 6-1 loss to Elk Grove and a 6-0 loss to Grace Davis (Modesto) to end Division I playoff run.
Players lost: Becky Dowd, Kristin Schmidt, Traci Hart, Sarah Wixon, Amanda Poteet, Jaclyn Swartz and Melissa Alves
Returning starters: Four
Important game: April 26th at home against McClatchy
Coach’s comment: “We are solid defensively again this year, but the big difference will be at the plate,” Chan said.
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