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2013 Foothill League softball preview: Rife with talent

Many teams with loaded rosters can contend for a title

Posted: April 8, 2013 11:21 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2013 11:21 p.m.

The Signal's reigning All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year, West Ranch sophomore Kylie Sorenson.

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There’s no secret who should win the Foothill League title this season.

The Saugus Centurions have the pitching, depth and quality hitters to dispatch anything the rest of the league throws at them.

But a West Ranch team coming off its first Foothill League title in school history, a Valencia team that has the Santa Clarita Valley’s richest softball tradition behind it and strong Hart, Canyon and Golden Valley squads are all looking for the slightest crack.

Saugus has all the tools to win the league title this season, which is why it came out on top of The Signal’s anonymous poll of the league’s coaches. But as the saying goes, ‘That’s why they play the games.’

 

West Ranch

The West Ranch Wildcats are coming off its most successful season in program history after winning the Foothill League title in 2013.

They’ll have to contend with the loss of the battery of pitcher Bailey Foster and catcher Janelle Lindvall, but the Wildcats certainly aren’t lacking talent.

The biggest question mark comes in the circle, where Lexi Sorensen, who spent last season getting reps on the junior varsity team, steps in.

The sophomore has tossed 59 innings and posted a 5-5 record with a 2.49 ERA against quality competition.

With myriad talent behind her, how quickly Sorensen can adapt to varsity competition could determine where the Wildcats finish this season.

Returning All Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year, shortstop Kylie Sorenson, is the team’s top offensive threat, leading the team with two home runs and boasting a .452 batting average with six RBIs and three doubles.

The rest of the infield returns as well, with Oregon commit Lauren Lindvall at third base, Princeton commit Hailey Hineman at second and Long Beach State commit Julie Lombardi at first.

Lauren Lombardi, who was hurt last season, will fill in at catcher for the graduated Janelle Lindvall, now starting for the University of Oregon.

Newcomer freshman Jessica Harper is already having an impact in left field and is batting .214 with four RBIs.

Still, things are more difficult this season for West Ranch, which has already lost more games than it did all of 2012.

With a league title and a CIF-Southern Section Division I second round playoff appearance, the Wildcats had a 22-5-1 record to end the year.

This season, they stand at 4-7 entering league play.

But don’t count the Wildcats out in Foothill League competition.

“Player for player, we’re able to compete with anyone out there once it starts counting,” said West Ranch head coach Bob Shults. “I don’t get too caught up in the preseason. We have simple goals: Do well enough in league to make the playoffs and this year we can make a good run.”

 

Saugus

To say the Saugus Centurions are loaded this season is perhaps the biggest understatement this preview has to offer.

The Centurions feature not one, not two, but three quality pitchers including one who might be the league’s best in freshman and University of Oklahoma commit Mariah Lopez.

“She’s a leader as a freshman,” said Saugus head coach Julie Watson. “Once she gets on the field she’s focused. She wants to win. And I’ve never seen that attitude out of a freshman.”

Lopez isn’t the only newcomer who has been having a tremendous impact, either.

Junior Maddie Jelenicki, who transferred from Valencia after her freshman year and sat out her sophomore year because of CIF transfer rules, has been hitting the ball hard during the preleague season.

Jelenicki is 19-for-31 on the season, a .613 average, and leads the team with 17 RBIs and five home runs.

“She’s a great leader and obviously, talentwise, she’s phenomenal,” Watson said. “She’s beyond her years. She could play college ball right now the way she understand the game. She’s great to have on the team.”

In addition to Lopez in the circle, senior Alanna Layton and junior Brandi Burgin return to give Saugus a three-pronged threat that has the Foothill League coaches picking the Centurions to win the 2013 title.

The Centurions feature some quality returners at the plate, as well, with senior Rachel Shotzbarger at shortstop, junior Alyssa Rodriguez at third, junior Taylor Kister at first and Kaela Morrow in the utility spot.

 

Valencia

After two years without a Foothill League title, after claiming 10 in a row from 2001-2010, the Valencia Vikings might just finally be entering a league season without the target squarely on their back.

And for a young team, that’s a bit of good news to head coach Donna Lee.

“It’s kind of new (compared to) the last 10 years. It’s fun. It’s a different kind of coaching when you don’t have the target on your back. There’s expectations you have to do everything right,” Lee said. “When the target’s not on your back there’s less expectation. It becomes more natural than when you’re constantly looking behind your back.”

But at the end of the day, they’re still Valencia — and they’ll also be a threat in the ultra-competitive Foothill League.

Sydney Mundell steps into the circle after the departure of All-CIF pitcher Carly Mortensen.

“I knew what she had but I didn’t know what she was going to have from game to game,” Lee said. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised. She’s done a super job and is fielding her position and has far exceeded my expectations — and the best is yet to come.”

Kristina Brackpool returns to the Vikings infield as a returning All-league and All-SCV selection from 2012.

She’ll be joined by freshman catcher Ally Johnson and returning shortstop Wendy Cardinali, who have all been impressive during the preleague season.

The outfield lacks experience, with a trio of newcomers. But the group of left fielder Brittney Ross-Smith, center fielder Lauren Dolan and Maddie Bishop are playing well.

 

Hart

Hart has a lot of question marks after losing seven seniors, a group that totaled 33 of the Indians’ 44 home runs, off last year’s team.

Juli Strange (12) and Tracy Chandless (11), now at North Carolina, led the Indians in home runs last season, and it will be up to a trio of returners to fill the void.

Seniors Paxton Provost, Jenae Coleman and Sierra Quiala will be counted on for power this season.

It’s been a struggle early in the year for Hart, which sits at 3-5 on the year.

“Our record doesn’t speak to the effort that Hart has given,” said Hart head coach Steve Calendo. “We have a mixture of a very, very young team and experienced seniors and we’re playing better as of late and the kids are putting in the effort.”

Coleman, who caught for the Indians last season, moves to third to fill a hole at the position and Kaitlyn Reed moves into the circle to pitch for Hart.

With so many seniors lost off a 2012 team that made the CIF-SS Division I playoffs as an at-large team, a group of four freshman will have a huge say in how the Indians fare this season.

Three of those freshman will start for Hart, including Raquel Blanchard at catcher, Sierra Boyajian in the outfield and Sienna Vannoy in the infield.

Freshman Sage Miller should also see time this season.

“They have to grow up fast,” Calendo said. “These freshman are very talented kids. If they work hard and have the right attitude, they should have a great career in softball.”

Last year. Hart’s playoff hopes came down to the final day of the season, when they beat Canyon to finish fourth and remain eligible for an at-large playoff spot.

This year could provide similar dramatics for the Indians.

 

Canyon

The Canyon Cowboys fell just short of making the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs last season, falling 10-4 to Hart in the final game of the season to fall out of at-large eligibility.

Getting to the playoffs is the goal this season, but the losses of pitcher Hayley Bottino and catcher Courtney Ziese will be hard to replace.

So far, though, Canyon has found plenty of players prepared to step up.

Unlike last season, when Bottino received almost all of the playing time on the mound, the Cowboys feature a trio of starting pitchers.

Freshman Brittany Workman has received the majority of the innings, tossing 41 1/3 innings. Sophomore Emily Goodspeed enters league with 26 2/3 innings and junior Nicole Dall has gone 17 2/3.

“You always want more than just one pitcher,” said Canyon head coach Dwain Whalen said. “Even though Hayley was tough as nails, at times she got tired. Especially when you’re playing a doubleheader, it’s always nice to have the dynamic of having three.”

Returners Kaylie Doyal (.500 batting average, 17 RBIs), Tiffany Dyson (.521, 19) and Paige Johnson (.359 19) have been playing well and will be counted on if Canyon is going to find success this season.

The Cowboys could receive a boost from the return of sophomore Lexi Lotito, who is still recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered in that final game against Hart in 2012.

In her first return to action last week, Lotito went 1-for-3 with an RBI in a 2-1 victory against Chatsworth.

Freshman Amanda Doyle has been the surprise of the preleague season for Canyon, batting .556 with 19 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

“We were expecting her to produce, but not this fast and we’re not surprised,” Whalen said. “But we’re happy that she’s come along as fast as she has.”

 

Golden Valley

It’s probably going to be another rough year for the Golden Valley Grizzlies in Foothill League play this season.

The wealth of talent in the league, combined with the Grizzlies’ overall lack of experience doesn’t bode well.

But that’s not to say the Grizzlies can’t accomplish something this season, including winning another Foothill League game.

“I hope so, that’s the plan,” said Golden Valley head coach Hugo Castillo. “We’re going to give it all we have. If it’s ever going to happen, this is the year because everyone is lacking pitching.”

The Grizzlies have already turned a corner this season — winning 10 preleague games for the first time in program history.

They return senior pitcher Sydney Herrera, who Castillo calls “the Greg Maddux of Foothill League softball” because of she doesn’t bring overpowering stuff, but has a knack for getting outs by staying in the strike zone.

No one has emerged behind Herrera to close out games yet, though, so offense and building leads will be vital for Golden Valley this season.

Returning junior catcher Emily Smith leads the way offensively and a trio of newcomers will play significant roles.

Shortstop Marisa Felix, third baseman Valerie Goymerac and second baseman Tatyanah Castillo have all emerged as talents during the preleague season.

The 2013 season might be challenging, but the Grizzlies are happy with the opportunity to build for the future.

“We appreciate the opportunity to coach these kids,” Castillo said. “We like developing kids. We don’t coach for self recognition. You’ve got to coach for the right reasons.”

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