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The ties that bind Hart

Trio of Hart senior infielders have helped push the Indians to the CIF-SS Div. I semis

Posted: May 30, 2009 8:40 p.m.
Updated: May 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.

First baseman Heather Stiglich, left, shortstop Emily Henry, center, and second baseman Allison Lewis walk off Newhall Ranch Park Friday after practice. The trio have a chance to advance to CIF-SS Div. I Finals with a win on Tuesday.

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With less than three hours until their senior banquet, Hart senior softball players Heather Stiglich, Allison Lewis and Emily Henry sat in the stands adjacent to the dugout they had spent years in, while rooting each other on at Newhall Park.

It was an overcast afternoon that did not reflect the groups’ bright futures.

While the trio often fell into the lengthy shadows cast by superstar pitcher Destiny Rodino and catcher Jessica Shults, there was no doubt that their contributions to the team were going to be a focal point on a night set to highlight the accomplishments of the

Foothill League spring sports team still playing in the postseason.

“All I know is that I’m going to cry,” says Lewis, the team’s second baseman. “This has been an amazing group of girls to play with, and I think you can see how much we love playing together by how we are a cohesive team, and we always have had each other’s backs.”

For many girls on the 2009 Hart team, the experience on the softball field started well before they reached high school. Stiglich, Lewis, and Henry all started playing together at the age of 7, and Stiglich and Henry were on an American Softball Association U-14 national championship team in 2006.

“It’s definitely special to have a night like the one we are having tonight with the whole group there,” says shortstop Henry. “I’m hoping tonight will give us even more motivation to keep this thing going.”

Thus far, Hart has blown through the playoffs in large part to a trio of shutouts from Rodino, but Rodino quickly points out that she wouldn’t be enjoying any of her success without an infield that has melded into one of the most cohesive units in the area.

“I think we have turned some pretty good double plays behind her this year,” Lewis says with a smile. “When you can play with so many of the same people for so many years, it gives you a chance to create something special.”

It is not just in the field, though, that Stiglich, Lewis and Henry have driven the team. The senior squad have also been critical parts at various points of the batting order.

Stiglich has hit .346 with a pair of homers, including a key home run in a 3-1 win over Canyon on May 5, while the Indians were on their way to a second place Foothill League finish.

“Heather just knows how to step up at the plate,” says head coach Steve Calendo. “She has an amazing work ethic and the results of her efforts are very rewarding for her team and herself. Ally sets the table for us and Emily is a reliable bat that we know will come through.”

Lewis and Henry both provide speed options that often cause chaos on the base-paths.

Henry has hit .301 in the top of the order, while Henry has notched 16 hits.

“We have practiced together for so long that it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s all over,” Stiglich says. “It’s the end of an era, but we aren’t done placing our legacy on this program. To have so many seniors on this group means a lot to each and every one of us.”

But most of the Indians’ 10 seniors credit the team’s impressive playoff run to the Hart coaching staff’s support of the senior-laden bunch.

“I think what all our coaches have shown us is that they see us all as people before we are players,” Lewis says. “They really just seem to look at us as a team, and they have done a great job helping us get better on and off the field.”

Calendo reciprocates the feeling.

He views the seniors’ dedication and desire to improve in direct correlation with the team’s 97 wins over the past four years.

“You can look at any player on our team and see what she brings to the table,” Calendo says of his 2009. “Out these three I think you can see how consistent Emily is, Heather’s dedication and how Ally will always jump and surprise with how talented she is.”

The progression could be far from over for the trio, both on-and-off the field. Henry has committed to attend Chico State and play softball, while Stiglich waits to decide on her next scholastic and academic move and Lewis gears up for her first semester at San Diego State.

“It’s going to be weird to be away from everyone,” Lewis says. “I knew it was going to come someday, but when it does come it will be too soon.”

The Indians will get a chance to extend their season when they take on Norco, the team that has eliminated them from two of the last three CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs on Tuesday. However, in 2007, the first Hart team that featured the three graduating seniors infielders at a varsity level, the Indians eliminated Norco.

“We know this team, and we know what it’s like to lose to them,” says Henry. “It would be nice to beat them again. It would be some nice symmetry for us, but our ultimate goal is the same one that had at the beginning of the year. We want to win this tournament.”

Win or lose, over their upcoming showdown and potential shot at a championship, this Hart team knows that they have already gained much from time on the softball field.

“When I look back on nights like the Senior Banquet, I’ll think about more than just what we accomplished,” says Lewis. “What we got out of this were some great friendships that we will have for the rest of our lives.”

While Friday night was one of the last times with all of the 2009 Hart team together, it will not be the final time the seniors are united.

“These are friends that we’ll have for the rest of our lives,” says Stiglich. “I mean, these are the people that we are going to have at our weddings. I think we will always look back on this time with smiles at the team rituals we had.”

kdamore@the-signal.com

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