Pitman varsity softball is coming off the programs best season-to-date after notching a 22-8 overall record, including 11-4 in the Central California Conference, but this year might differ.
For the first time in eight seasons, the Pitman High softball team will be without a true ace heading into the new season.
“Every year you have to rebuild with a different group of girls and every time you see what you have at the lower level and we have a good group coming up from JV,” said Lewis. “It’s the first year since I’ve been here that we don't have Janessa [Guevara] or Alexis [Mettler], so it’s a whole new ball game.”
Guevara and Mettler helped bring stability to the team and limited the opponents with their tremendous ability to pitch consistently and effectively. Each went on to break school records and went on to play softball in college.
But there are still some upsides for this year's Pride team, like the return of two sophomore all-league players in Lehua DeLeon and Morgan Aguiniga, who both were some of the most consistent bats for the Pride just a year ago.
DeLeon hit .326 while Aguiniga batted .356 with four home-runs. Both started and played in all 29 games for the year, the most the softball team had competed in since the program started in 2005.
“The girls know what I expect up here,” said Lewis. “We are trying to build a program and keep it consistent all year and usually we compete for a top spot in playoffs and some of these girls moved up and we know what is expected. Main goal is obviously to win league and hang the banner in the gym.”
To do that, Lewis will have to rely on the arms of juniors Denae Finney and Alanah Laupua, who come in as the two pitchers for the Pride. Sophomore Holland Henson, who was one of three freshman starters just a year ago for the Pride, also returns and should provide stability all around.
“We have a couple of girls that will be pitching this year and it will have to fall on their shoulders,” said Lewis. “Finney and Laupua are young, but they are going to have to jump in like the other girls did and those are the two we are going with.”
According to Lewis, all the infielders who will start for the Pride this year will be either a sophomore or freshman.
“We will have a young infield, but I am confident in their ability. Two of them were all-league players as freshmen and the others should follow up,” said Lewis.
In addition to the young squad will be Taylor Honnette and seniors Michelle Robinson and Starr Russo.
“Pitching is the big thing in softball and you have to score runs so we have to make sure our bats are going,” said Lewis. “I am confident in their ability and they can all swing the bats well, so we should be good.”
The only question that remains is how exactly the Pride will match in the always competitive CCC.
“I think this year it is going to be the best it has ever been,” said Lewis of the CCC. “I know Turlock will be great this year and Merced, Buhach are always competitive, it will be a tough league and it will be more competitive this year because it’s tougher from top to bottom.”
“We are just going to have to field the ball and pitch well to score more runs than other teams, we will have to score more runs... that is just how it goes,” Lewis added.
The first game for Pitman will be in a scrimmage at Livingston High against Hilmar at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.