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Softball Previews 2010

Local teams swing for success

POSTED March 16, 2010 9:53 p.m.
Five different softball teams, five different story lines.
There’s not a true common theme that’s shared among Pitman, Turlock, Turlock Christian, Denair and Hilmar schools when it comes to the softball diamond …  except that all want to play well throughout the season, of course. Each team is chasing a certain goal that the respective players and coaches hope to achieve.
Let’s start with Turlock, which got a taste of the postseason for the first time in six years under longtime coach Jill Ogden. The Bulldogs are hoping for a return to show that last season’s run wasn’t an accident, and they could do it again with Morgan Riddick, the team’s top thrower who signed to play for Cal State Stanislaus next year.
Only a few miles away, their cross-town rivals, the Pitman Pride, are once again rebuilding a program with a new coach for the fourth time in four years. But this year’s coach, Cassie Sheppherd, says she has a talented squad and that she’s in it for the long run.
For the two local teams in the Southern League, Turlock Christian and Denair are looking to be competitive and give every team a tough game every time. TC, however, is still welcoming a number of players from the school’s basketball team that played for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
It won’t be until weeks from now to know how the stories of all the local teams will end. But again, they all hope to do well.
Hilmar Yellowjackets
2009 season: 19-5 overall, 12-3 WAC
Head coach: Paul Willis (third year)
Assistant: Frank Marques
Top returners: Alicia Paine (P), Stesha Brazil (C), Jessica DeSilva (2b), Jessica Willis (OF)
Top newcomers: Alissa Orosco (3B), Alma Gallegos (SS)
Outlook: This is the type of team that can be competitive in the Western Athletic Conference, which is quite balanced this season. For example, the Yellowjackets were surprised by Escalon on Tuesday and lost 1-0 in a close game. But the Hilmar players are looking forward to a tough schedule, which will give them experience heading into the final stretch of the regular season. Hilmar’s biggest advantage is the pitching-catching duo in Alicia Paine and Stesha Brazil, with Brazil being a four-year starter. Paine, her coach said, allows the Yellowjackets a chance to win every time she’s in the circle, as she has added new pitches and increased her accuracy.
Turlock Bulldogs
2009 season: 16-10 overall, 8-4 CCC
Head coach: Jill Ogden (13th year)
Assistant: Crystal Ramos
Top returners: Morgan Riddick (P), Jasmine Almongol (SS), Alyssa Gonzalez (C), Emily Peichoto (3B), Candace Sakuda (OF), Mariah DeCouto (OF), Jordan Tyler (1B)
Top newcomer: Shiloh Soto (utility)
Outlook: With reigning Central California Conference MVP Morgan Riddick back for another season, the Bulldogs can cause some damage this season and qualify for the postseason for the second straight time. Riddick, who’s headed to play for Cal State Stanislaus next season, will have familiar faces surrounding her. This Turlock team is built on making stops on defense. “We may not score as many runs,” coach Jill Ogden said, “but hopefully we can play good defense and keep scores down.” The Bulldogs will be challenged in the CCC, with Buhach Colony bringing back some talent from last season.
Turlock Christian Eagles
2009 record: 7-11-1 overall, 6-9 SL
Head coach: Randy Hopkins (second year)
Assistant: Ashley Schuller
Top returners: Stepahnie Huber (P/OF), Angie Martin (C/OF), Candice Balswick (SS), Tara Lafollette (P)
Top newcomers: Kristina Schulte, Catherine Balswick, Colett Kelly, Amanda Beech
Outlook: Coach Randy Hopkins has one simple goal for his Eagles, and that is to be one of the top teams in the Southern League. He also said the team’s focus is all about playing tough defense and entering each game “with confidence and perseverance.” The Eagles bring back experience in such key players as junior pitcher Stephanie Huber, junior catcher/outfielder Angie Martin and senior shortstop Candice Balswick, as well as pitcher Tara Lafollette.
Pitman Pride
2009 record: 9-15 overall, 3-9 CCC
Head coach: Cassie Sheppherd (first year)
Assistant: Joe Lewis
Top returners: Bethany Clapper (P), Kaitlin Goulart (C,), Hannah Hibdon (OF), Miranda Taylor (3B), Kayla Lewis (OF)
Top newcomers: Emily Raley (2B), Allison Kuchan (SS), Sarah Ward (3B/1B), Ashley Attaway (1B/OF), Nicole Metcalf (OF), Jasmine Washington (1B), Janessa Guevara (P)
Outlook: For the fourth time in four years, the Pride introduced a new coach. This time, it’s Cassie Sheppherd, whose previous experience was in recreational leagues. The first-year coach said she’ll be around for awhile, providing the girls some confidence in a dedicated coach throughout the season. It’ll help Sheppherd that this year’s group is made up of a number of returners, including three-year starter and pitcher Bethany Clapper and catcher Kaitlin Goulart. The Pride also have a set of newcomers that are expected to play huge roles.
Denair Coyotes
2009 record: 1-20 overall, 1-14 SL
Head coach: Paul Michaelis
Outlook: This is a Coyotes group this is made up of only four seniors in second baseman Monica Jamero, first baseman Corinne Martinez, leftfielder Jerrica Flatt and third baseman Wendy Makin, and they all are expected to be leaders. The rest of the team is made up of mostly sophomores and juniors. The Coyotes are coming off a season in which they had only one win.

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