As the spring season begins for high school softball programs around the area, local teams of the Southern Athletic League look to be on the verge of respective breakout seasons.
Delhi begins a new era without the golden arm of Alyssa Stockton at the helm, but they also welcome new head coach Mike Andam who had previously been a coach at Livingston.
“I was basically waiting for the right opportunity to become a head coach and really it's a dream come true for me. I am excited to be here,” said Andam.
Andam takes over a Hawks team that went 10-14 overall last year and accumulated a league record of 6-8.
A major upside for the new year, however, is that Andam will have the luxury of bringing in freshman standout Valerie Mercado, who has years of experience playing travel ball.
Look for Mercado to be the team's ace pitcher as well.
“I am lucky I have her for at least four more years,” said Andam of Mercado.
Diamond Orozco and Veronica Cruz will look to be the other two standouts, playing shortstop and third base, respectively.
Although Andam's enthusiasm and excitement cannot be matched, it will be interesting how a team made up of only 10 players will fare for the year, pending possible injuries.
“I just hope we don't have injuries because if we do it will be a long season,” said Andam.
Waterford and Mariposa look to be the heavy favorites to top out in league after each have standout ace pitchers but also look for Denair to finally make some waves after a few rough seasons.
The time has finally come for the Coyotes to compete on the diamond and they have shown it in the offseason, playing at a higher level than head coach Cindy Turner has ever seen.
Denair's anchor at shortstop and possible ace for the year will be Kelsey Park, who has several years under her belt at the travel ball level.
Denair went 1-13 in the SAL a year ago, but in addition to Park will be a handful of experienced players that include two seniors in Taryn Fletcher and Adelyn Dunn.
“Some big differences because last year or four years we struggled to get any wins and this year we are really looking at maybe not taking league but maybe going .500 this year,” said fourth year head coach Turner. “We really have a wonderful team this year.”
The Coyotes' turnout this season was so successful that they were able to boast a JV team, a first in over five years.
“My infield is versatile, I definitely expect the girls to compete in league,” said Turner. “The girls are looking at one another in great shock and know they are better. I mean they are excited, they want to practice longer after we finish. The commitment is at an all-time high.”
Denair's next game will be against Turlock Christian at home at 4 p.m. March. 8.