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Game time: CCC softball teams ready to compete
CCC softball pic1
Sophomore Mariah Gonzalez of Turlock High gets ready to deliver a pitch during the first day of the Ceres Tournament. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The Central California Conference is known to be one of the most competitive leagues in the valley in nearly every sport—including softball.

Turlock and Pitman High have begun their new seasons with a positive outlook and ambition that this will be a year where they compete for a CCC title and make a run in the postseason.

Pitman welcomes first year head coach Joe Lewis, who will be taking over the full-time duties after the Pride failed to make the postseason last year with an 8-7 league record that placed them in fourth, just behind Atwater. They were outscored 83-79 by league opponents last season.

“We could’ve made the playoffs last year. We lost a couple close games that we shouldn’t have and we were also young,” said Lewis who has served as an assistant coach for the past five years.

With four sophomores leading the way last year, the Pride struggled to perform in the most critical situations, but this year the squad welcomes all juniors and seniors as this looks to be one of the most experienced squads in the CCC.

“This year we have girls that we have had since their freshman or sophomore years and now they are seniors, so we have a core group, solid group,” Lewis said. “We have got to put the bat on the ball in those situations. Last year, I don’t think we were as aggressive as we have came out this year so far.”

The seniors leading the way will be Sally Acosta, Liz Segers and Skylar Taylor. Acosta will also be one of the three pitchers for the Pride, Segers will take on the outfield duties and Taylor plays the infield—anywhere.

While the bats were a bit cold at times this year, juniors Nicole Bailey and Alexis Mettler should help immensely, with Mettler taking on the ace-pitcher duties after leading the team last year as a sophomore.

“Alexis [Mettler] has led the team in hitting since she came up her freshman year so I expect her to do big things. Also, hopefully, the hitting will be stronger as opposed to last year. We lost a couple close games because we didn’t produce much at the plate,” Lewis said about his offense.

Junior pitcher Hannah Martel, a transfer from Calaveras, broke her finger a few days ago during a scrimmage and will be out for six weeks.

The Pride is currently playing in the Ceres Tournament and are 2-0 going into today’s matchups against Weston Ranch and Gregori at Rainbow Field in Modesto. The first game against WR is set for 11 a.m. with the Gregori game set for 4:15 p.m.

 “We're going to work hard, the CCC title is what we want after winning the 2012 year and some of these girls were on that squad; we just know it’s tough we have a lot of great competition. Our goal is always the same: to win CCC and make the playoffs,” Lewis added.

The Turlock Bulldogs are coming off a rebuilding year after graduating four seniors, but welcoming back nine players.

With three sophomores and two freshman on the Turlock squad last season, the ‘Dogs failed to match up to the competitiveness of the CCC, placing dead last with a 1-14 league record (6-21, Overall).

This year, head coach Jill Ogden feels the team has made a lot of progress and learned from last year and she feels the team can compete with some of the top teams in league.

“We made a lot of progress from last year as far as getting the basic skills down; it was a building block for this year,” Ogden said. “We are working on building teamwork and playing selfless.”

Coming back this season will be pitchers and first basemen, Mariah Gonzalez and Bergen Benedict. Gonzalez started last year as a freshman but struggled at times and Benedict comes in as a junior ready for another season.

“I think we will be stronger in every area, our pitching is top notch and we fixed the defense and should be in a playoff spot for league,” Ogden said. “Definitely, the girls matured and learned the game and we will only get better.”

Senior Rachel Aldax and sophomore Madison Mayol will rotate on catcher duty, but Mayol should see most of her time come from the shortstop position. Junior Sarah Garcia returns as the team's second baseman ,but can play as a utility player as well.

 Lindsey Holguin, a junior and a three-year varsity player, will be in the outfield.

“Most important thing is to come together as a team and for every individual to do their job and to be good teammates,” Ogden said. “We are happy with the team this year and we are happy to return to play like Turlock softball plays. We have a very proud tradition.”

The ‘Dogs are currently competing in the Ceres Tournament and will play today at 10 a.m. against Grace Davis and then again at 1:30 p.m. against Patterson, after falling in their first two games against Riverbank and Escalon.