Hilmar High has a new head coach and lofty goals for the 2015 softball season.
With a 10-10 record and a fifth place finish in the Trans Valley League behind them, the Yellowjackets enter this season with Kara Hagens, up from the JV ranks, at the helm of a team not only in search of a TVL title, but a deep run into the playoffs as well.
“We're really trying to take the program to ground zero and start over,” Hagens said. “Softball is the only one that doesn't have a pennant on our gym wall, so we really want to get that pennant and go to sections. We're aiming high this year, we're not aiming low.”
Hilmar returns with its pitching game intact with Miranda Gray and Marta Mitchell — who led the team in strike outs last year — back on the mound.
Gone are the 'Jackets' top batters and scorers, however, which has shifted their team dynamic when it comes to offense.
“We have a lot more small ball this year, which is good, actually,” Hagens said. “We're working on our bats right now, but we're pretty tight defensively.”
But Hilmar's playing style is not likely to define their season. With only three seniors and two juniors on the team, Hilmar's roster is mostly comprised of freshmen and sophomores, which will undoubtedly require the squad to bond to succeed.
It will be up to Gray, Mitchell and Katelyn Canella to lead newcomers like McKenzie Martinez, Makayla Mobley, Kassidy Mendes and Hannah Pearce as they get ready for the beginning of TVL play with a road game against rival Escalon High on Wednesday.
“It's good to get it off right off the bat. They need to come out and see what they're made up,” Hagens said.
To prepare for league, Hilmar has played a preseason schedule filled with upper-division opponents such as Pitman, Turlock, Downey and Liberty Ranch High.
“We wanted to give the girls different pitching, different situations, and stuff like that,” Hagens said.
The 'Jackets will host Dos Palos High on Monday before making the trip to Escalon on Wednesday for the 3:30 p.m. TVL opener.