With Turlock Christian High out of the Southern Athletic League, the year is already looking different for Delhi and Denair's softball teams.
Last year Denair struggled in head coach Cindy Turner's second season and finished the year with a 3-11 league record.
“We are just thinking about this year now,” said Turner. “I am a lot more confident this year with the team we have out there so far.”
Delhi (11-3) topped out in third place and were the Division VI CIF Sac-Joaquin runner-ups after losing to Mariposa, 3-4, in the Championship game.
“I thought we ended very well last year considering we were section runner-ups,” said Delhi head coach Tami Tela. “I think excitement and nerves, like I said at the beginning of last year, overcame us but this year the girls are very confident.”
Not only did Delhi gain valuable knowledge making the postseason last year, which should transcend into this season, but they return the SAL MVP, Alyssa Stockton.
Stockton just recently committed to play softball at Cal State Bakersfield on an Athletic Scholarship and has become the first female athlete to move on to the Division I level from Delhi.
“It is a big deal what she said, it is a big deal,” Tela said about Stockton recently signing to Bakersfield. “To be the first in school history to do what she has, it’s unreal.”
Not only is Stockton heading into her fourth consecutive varsity year, she also led the state in strikeouts in only her sophomore year with 325 in only 158 innings pitched, while holding opponents to an average of .167.
Stockton also did work on the plate after hitting .403 last year, which was first on the team.
“Obviously since we have Aly and Bri we should be ok, these two are fantastic players,” Tela said. “Bri throws just as hard as Alyssa, so the one-two is amazing. They have almost the same pitches and wherever they are playing they are successful since they’ve played travel ball almost all their lives.”
Lopez was second on the team with a .400 average last season and topped out in RBI (20).
The team should be strong on the infield, but the outfield will be filled with inexperienced players.
Two sophomores and a freshman make up the outfield trio for Tela.
“The outfield is so new,” said Tela. “Our potential is looking really good. It’s looking very good for the season, if we stay focused for the season. I think we will do very well this year, we just need to continue working hard. SAL is a tough league — can’t take anything for granted.”
Denair looks to be starting from scratch, especially since six of the team’s nine starters are either freshmen or sophomores.
“I am looking at the next few years to improve as we are really progressing,” Turner said. “We also have three pitchers now rather than having one.”
Sophomore Ileah Brantley and freshmen Kelsey Park and Courtney Prock will be the pitchers for the Coyotes squad that is without question the youngest varsity team in the SAL.
“I am excited for the year,” said Turner. “We have great all around players. Our upperclassmen are also really helping out. The infield looks a lot more solid as well.”
Kloie Lum, Alex Sanders, and Adelyn Dunn will be some of the other key players to look out for this year’s Coyotes squad.
“I’m not saying we will take league, I’d love to say that but I think this year will be a turnaround than it has been in previous years. They are young but don't play like it,” Turner added.
Denair will host Delhi at 4 p.m. Tuesday.