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Vikings look for third D-I title

An experienced Hart team and young league are standing in Valencia’s way

Posted: April 14, 2009 1:31 a.m.
Updated: April 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart's Destiny Rodino pitches against Pacifica of Oxnard on May 17, 2008 at Hart High.

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At this point last season, expectations weren't that Valencia would repeat as CIF-Southern Section Division I champions.

The Vikings didn't care. They went out and won it again, despite critics saying that they relied so heavily in 2007 on one player, Jordan Taylor.

So here we are in April 2009 and doubt arises again.

Whereas in the past, Valencia's competition wasn't seen as being within the Foothill League, but in the division, things have changed.

And Hart has gotten better.

Loaded with talent, experience and unity, the Indians (12-2) enter the Foothill League season as the frontrunner for a league title.

"They are the team to beat," said Vikings head coach Donna Lee. "This is their year. But guess what, we are going to fight for it. We are going to fight until the very end."

But Hart is loaded.

With nine seniors - Devon Lindvall, Brianna Fitchpatrick, Melissa Brown, Destiny Rodino, Beth Rankin, Jessica Shults, Heather Stiglich, Allison Lewis and Emily Henry - Hart boasts the most experienced team in the league.

Five of the girls have committed to Collegiate Division I programs.

One of which is Rodino, who will take her left-handed, lights-out style to UCLA next season.

"She is throwing harder now that she ever has," Calendo said. "She is really doing everything she can to take this team as far as it can go."

Rodino enters league play with a 0.90 ERA, 11-2 record and 115 strikeouts over 86 total innings pitched.

Offensively for the Indians, Shults has hit a blistering .528 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored.

On the other hand, juniors Madison Shipman and Megan Foglesong lead a young Valencia (16-4) with only two seniors in catcher Amy Moore and Lindsey Clark.

Shipman, who has been out with a fractured kneecap, leads the team with in hitting with a .451 average, 15 RBIs, one home run, 11 stolen bases and seven runs scored.

Foglesong is just behind, hitting .455 with 11 RBI, one home run, nine stolen bases and 20 runs.

But it is the young pitching duo of freshman Carly Mortensen and sophomore Sarah Enriquez - picking up where Jessica Spigner left off - that will really get the Valencia faithful excited for years to come.

Mortensen currently boasts at 9-2 with a 1.55 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 81 1/3 innings, while Enriquez has a 2.04 ERA, 7-2 record and 60 strikeouts in 61 2/3 Enriquez currently boasts a 2.04 ERA, 7-2 record and 60 strikeouts in 61 2/3.

"This year is all about a progression," Lee said. "I want results, don't get me wrong, but you have to get young kids involved. If we peak at the right time, it could be great. I really don't think we have reached our peak yet."

Lee also noted sophomore third baseman Caitlin Rooney, sophomore second baseman Bethany Kemp and junior first baseman Lauren Boser as players to keep an eye on this season.

Boser remains Valencia's only left-handed batter.

Lee's goals are simple - treat every game like a championship and win convincingly, she said.
While these two established programs spend time at the forefront of the Foothill League discussion, West Ranch looks to make its case.

With the addition of senior pitcher Shanya Medoff, the Wildcats (10-6) have found the chemistry they have lacked in previous years.

"(We were) just a couple breaks away from being (14-2)," said first-year West Ranch head coach Bob Shults. "They believe in themselves that they can actually succeed in this league."

Heading into league, the Wildcats have lost four games by only one run.

The bats are starting to click.

The team is led by a core of youthful bats starting with center fielder Bryanna De La Torre who is hitting .370 with 11 runs, eight RBIs, one home run and a total of seven extra-base hits and freshman catcher Janelle Lindvall, who has ripped the ball for a .386 average, two home runs, nine RBIs and five runs scored.

Combined with senior Breanne Lendman at third, junior second baseman Madison Vogelsang and senior outfielder Alyssa Hernandez, West Ranch is in the process of changing the program's culture.

"We don't have any kids that are committed to big schools yet," Shults said. "Hopefully we start changing that and getting these girls playing in college. It is my goal. They have been overshadowed for some reason."

The Wildcats open up league play by hosting Hart today at 3:15 p.m.

But Shults also mentioned his sleeper pick for the season - Saugus.

Even if the young Centurions don't break through this year, their talent could give opponents fits in the coming years.

Saugus has only two seniors and two juniors on this year's team.

"They are a young team, but we have the ability and talent to take it to the next level," said Saugus head coach Julie Watson. "As long as we can play well on the field, and put everything together on the field, things should be good for us."

With a core of Jenna Kelly, Ashley Butera, Jackie Shimamoto, Abby Linn, Kelsey Christopherson, Sara Shier and Karlee Bickford, bolstered by senior Alexis Tellez, the Centurions could present problems for the rest of the Foothill League.

And with six players hitting above .300 over at least 12 games - Linn (.442), Butera (.375), Kelly (.333), Tellez (.314), Shier (.323) and Shimamoto (.425) - the key to Saugus' success could come in the circle.

"(Christopherson) really holds the team together," Watson said. "She is one of those pitchers that will hit her spots and have really good movement."

Canyon and Golden Valley will also throw young pitchers this season.

Sophomore Leanne Hill and freshman Hayley Bottino have each put in strong performances for the Cowboys (7-7) so far this season and will be relied upon while No. 1 pitcher Danielle Sullivan is out with a broken finger.

Injuries have been a common problem for the Cowboys, who haven't been at full strength since the beginning of the season.

Hill currently holds a 3.14 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 29 total innings, while Bottino has an ERA of 2.72 and 17 strikeouts over 36 innings.

They will be aided by the hot bat of junior Brittany Williams who has ripped the ball to the tune of a .576 average, 19 RBIs, 19 runs, and eight home runs.

"She is the real deal," said head coach Mike Rego. "I've never seen a kid throw the ball or hit the ball the way she does, and I've coached them all."

Freshman Courtney Ziese has also found a lot of success at the play, hitting .448 with eight RBIs, nine runs, four stolen bases and one home run, but is also battling an ankle injury suffered sliding into second during the third inning against Rio Mesa of Oxnard on March 18.

With Jenny Wunderlich hitting .391 with six RBIs, 14 runs and one home run, Sullivan posting a .321 average with five RBIs and four runs, and Ciana Rego adding seven RBIs, 10 runs and hitting .349 so far, Canyon has the potential to put runs on the board in a hurry.

The Cowboys will open up league play today against Valencia at 3:15 p.m. at Canyon High.

Golden Valley's young ace is a converted third baseman, and has quickly garnered the respect of her coach and teammates.

In 14 appearances, freshman Alexandrea Martinez has a 2.33 ERA with 37 strikeouts.

"What she has done in the short time, she has been she strong on the mound, so composed," said Golden Valley head coach Courtney Carr. "She just goes out there with a game face to get the job done."

She is currently the only player who has pitched for the Grizzlies (6-8).

Martinez will receive offensive support from sophomores Branndi and Brianna Melero, both of which have turned in strong starts.

Branndi leads the team with a .432 average, while hitting four home runs with 14 RBIs and 10 runs scored, while Brianna has hit .333 with one home run, nine runs and four RBIs.

Carr calls Branndi her "outfield coach during the game," noting that she "leads by example and verbally," as the teams starting center fielder.

Brianna missed the first three weeks of the season with a dislocated shoulder.

Carr also said she expects big things from freshman catcher Karlie Habitz, and that experience, size and attitude on the field make her youth deceptive.

So far Habitz is hitting .349 with 11 RBIs, two home runs and five runs scored.

Golden Valley starts things off by hosting Saugus today at 3:15 p.m.


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