It’s spring and high school softball is in full swing in Turlock, with the Pride and Bulldog varsity squads both kicking off Central California Athletic League play last week ahead of their rivalry game on Wednesday.
Pitchers throughout the CCAL will have a hard time throwing around the Pitman High squad, which has hit an impressive eight home runs in their first three games this season. Prior to the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID, the Pride was an undefeated 8-0 and have continued that streak into 2021 play, defeating Golden Valley, Downey and Gregori so far.
In their two CCAL games this season, Pitman has outscored opponents 27-5.
“We have excellent players and we have a lot of power this year — more than any years since I've coached — and it’s shown,” Pitman head coach Joe Lewis said.
That power is sprinkled throughout the lineup, too, although No. 3 hitter and sophomore Addie Mettler leads the team in homeruns with three already. Seniors Gabby De Leon, Kai Deleon and Maddy Insell have played for Lewis for four years together, he said, and he’s coached players like juniors Emilie Espinosa and Kayleen Zayemoureh as well as senior Delaney Huse-Davison for three.
The chemistry throughout the lineup is apparent, with De Leon (2), Zayemoureh (2) and Deleon (1) homering in the first three games as well. De Leon has also been a force to reckon with on the pitcher’s mound so far.
“As a coach, it’s enjoyable watching the pitchers try and pitch around certain individuals because we have people batting after those players that can also hit the ball well,” Lewis said.
Sprinkled in with the Pride’s CCAL competitions this season are some games against other teams like Atwater and Livingston.
“I'm excited for the girls to be able to get a season in. It’s a lot shorter unfortunately, but I’m just doing as much as I can to make sure the girls get as many games as possible,” Lewis said.
At Turlock High, the Bulldogs fell to both Enochs and Modesto last week. While their matchup against the Eagles saw Turlock’s opponent outscore them 13-2, Friday’s loss was a much closer contest with the Panthers, who won 2-1.
The Bulldogs welcomed back four varsity players this season, including three-year starter Ellie Price in center field, after seven graduated following the 2020 season which was cut short. The young team with six juniors has plenty of promise, head coach Jill Ogden said, and has the pitching to go far in CCAL play.
Junior Abbey Harrington struck out 11 on Friday and walked just three batters, working her way out of a couple of jams in the fifth and sixth innings to keep the Bulldogs in the game. According to Ogden, the role of ace is up for grabs between Harrington and senior returner Carrie King, while senior Brooke Wees will see some innings as well.
“The pitching position is going to be very competitive,” Ogden said. “We have a pretty solid team; we just need some timely hits. We have good pitching, but it’s just a matter of putting it all together and executing.”
Catcher Hailey Bacon is the team’s sole freshman and another player to watch this season, Ogden added, as is clean-up hitter Angie Valenzuela, a senior who scored Friday’s lone run.
After months of Zoom calls, the Bulldogs held tryouts before spring break and had 10 days to practice before the season started. Due to COVID, athletes are allowed to participate in travel ball and high school ball at the same time, meaning some girls on the team are playing seven days a week between CCAL games and tournament play on the weekends. Some players didn’t return because they got jobs, Ogden added, but she’s happy to have most of the squad back on the field.
“Having them here in person is really nice,” she said. “Our focus for the season is getting in games and just getting to play softball again.”
The Pride and Bulldogs will meet for the first time this season at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Pitman High School softball field.