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Foothill League softball: Runs in the family

West Ranch has four sets of sisters, and all of them play a key role on the team

Posted: May 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch has four sets of sisters on its softball team that finished second in the Foothill League, the highest finish in program history. They are, counterclockwise from the top: Julia Lombardi, Lauren Lombardi, Mollie Sorenson, Kylie Sorenson, Lauren Lindvall, Janelle Lindvall, Taylor Gaff and Alex Gaff.

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Many teams make it a point to foster a family atmosphere.

West Ranch softball, however, takes the concept to a whole new level.

The Wildcats feature four sets of siblings that are not only making an impact, but have been key factors in helping West Ranch to its best finish in program history.

And in the process, they have found something even more valuable: a deeper bond.

“I see all the sisters really support each other,” says West Ranch head coach Bob Shults. “The older ones mother the younger ones. The young ones look up to the older ones. It’s a good chemistry. They are always trying to teach their siblings what to do. It’s a special bond there. They really watch out for each other and push each other.”

A pair of Gaffs, Lindvalls, Lombardis and Sorensons are all represented.

Alex Gaff is the elder statesman as the team’s only senior, while freshman sister Taylor Gaff is a top option off the bench as a pinch hitter.

Junior Janelle Lindvall starts at catcher and currently leads the Foothill League in a plethora of statistical categories, while freshman Lauren Lindvall has started in the outfield and infield and as a pitcher.

Sophomore Lauren Lombardi and freshman Julia Lombardi have largely occupied the corners, starting at third and first base, respectively.

Sophomore Kylie Sorenson is in her second season as the team’s starting shortstop, while freshman Mollie Sorenson has mostly played outfield.

“I’ve actually grown up around all these sets of sisters, so it wasn’t really surprising to see all of us playing on the same team,” says Lauren Lombardi. “I think it’s amazing that all of us are playing together and that over the years, have all had the passion to play and keep going with it.”

Heading into the postseason for only the second time in team history, the Wildcats tout a level of chemistry that they believe couldn’t be acquired any other way.

“I think it just adds a lot more personal (attachment) to it. We aren’t just going out there,” says Kylie Sorenson, who is hitting .514 with five home runs, 17 RBIs, 26 runs and 18 total extra-base hits. “A lot of girls don’t treat high school as seriously as they should, and I think having sisters there, having people to push you, it’s made us want to win. We all want to win, and we all want to win for each other.”

It’s visible every time West Ranch takes the field.

From a “let’s go” to an “atta baby,” the girls’ support for each other is evident.

They have the program’s first second-place finish to show for it, plus high expectations for the playoffs and seasons to come.

It all started years ago when many of the girls were playing for the Hart U10 Gold team.

They went 40-7-3 with multiple tournament championships, none bigger than the national tournament in St. Louis.

While there, the Sorensons, Lombardis, Lauren Lindvall, fellow Wildcat Haley Hineman and a host of girls who now play elsewhere across the valley beat a team from Huntington Beach to win the national title.

A banner commemorating the achievement still hangs at the Hart Complex.

While some of the other sisters have played with each other before, this is a first for Alex Gaff.

She has been on varsity for four years now and has been through the ups and downs.

“It was really cool to be with the program and watch it grow and be a part of it,” she says. “We started at the bottom as any new program does, and we have worked our way up.”

Alex, like the other older siblings, has taken on a mentorship role.

Sometimes, it’s more direct than others, especially for the Lindvalls.

Lauren Lindvall has made six pitching appearances this season. Each pitch goes directly to her sister, Janelle.

“That is honestly probably one of the greatest experiences that I will have in my high school career,” Lauren says. “The chemistry with us is just really fun. It’s an honor to pitch to her because I might not have that option again.”

Adds Janelle, with a laugh: “It is fun having her on the mound because I can tell her to knock it off when she is doing something she shouldn’t be.”

Janelle says things can get confusing sometimes, because Shults likes to call everyone by their last name.

“It is very confusing,” she says, “but overall it is very fun.”

Janelle is batting .584 with 13 home runs, 34 RBIs and 17 runs scored heading into the playoffs, while Lauren is hitting .394 with four home runs, 15 RBIs and 15 runs scored. The freshman also has a 1.71 ERA.

The four sets of sisters have a .367 collective batting average.

With the older siblings helping their freshman counterparts, the transition to the varsity level has been a little easier.

There are no regrets when it comes to weighing varsity over more playing time at JV.

“I thought it would be really difficult, but since there is someone to push me, and I’m playing with all my friends and we are all competing, it’s just been fun and easy,” Mollie says. “It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”

And they’ll be doing it for years to come.

Although Alex Gaff’s graduation will be felt, the vast majority of the team returns.

And they’ll return with a base line of success.

West Ranch has moved up in the Foothill League standings in each of the last two years.

The Wildcats could soon become a family that many people want to be a part of.

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