Head coach Jill Ogden has experienced some of her toughest times recently with her Turlock High varsity softball team but after a light shedding performance last year things look to be shaping up.
With the upcoming season, the team is looking as good as they have in over half a decade.
“Our outfield is fast and solid, we don't seem to have too many weak spots this year,” said Ogden. “We didn't hit as well as we had hoped last season so we’ve been working on that and the kids coming in can all hit well so it seems the weaknesses we had last year are filled this.”
Although they have yet to accomplish anything, the Bulldogs are looking as deep as they ever have, and quite possibly with as much talent as they have ever had, at least during Ogden's tenure since the 2008 season.
The last time the team saw a winning record in league was in 2009 and 2010 when they notched eight and seven Central California Conference victories, respectively.
“We felt like it was a building year and the kids learned a lot,” said Ogden about the 2015 season. “I think beating Merced last year was important for our program and our girls, because they needed to see they can compete with anybody in our league. To beat a team like that was a big confidence booster.”
Turlock captured nine wins for the year in 2015, the most since the 2010 season when the team won 13 altogether.
“We did let a few games as well get away, maybe we could have finished better but overall we were happy with the progression we made after a couple of down years,” said Ogden.
The entire team is looking forward to the challenge. Madi Mayol, who recently committed to Whitworth University, comes back as a four-year varsity senior along with the strong arm of Mariah Gonzalez, who will be attending William Jessup. The two are the only four-year varsity players on this year's roster.
“We had one senior that graduated so we have really all or most of our team coming back and then we have three juniors coming up from JV so lots of experience at the appropriate level,” said Ogden. “Then we have Shelby [Frutose], who is capable of doing it all, including pitching.”
Freshman sensation Frutose comes in as a highly regarded talent through the softball world, but has yet to make a name for herself at the varsity softball level, where the competition is a bit different.
Although the CCC has been dominated by Merced over the last few years, the league has provided some of the stiffest and most even competition there is and it seems like this year won't be any different with crosstown rivals Pitman also making noises with their talented roster.
“One thing we learned is we can't underestimate anybody in the CCC,” said Ogden. “We are capable of beating ourselves and we are trying to eliminate that and just go out and compete. If we play a good clean game and do what we are supposed to do we should be successful.”
Ogden will have the luxury of choosing from 14 players, something she has not had in over four years, including an infield of three sophomores, who started as freshmen last year in Sophie Mayol, Kelly Weber and Jessie Miranda.
“The infield is returning, three sophomores that played last year at third, short and second, and that gives us some stability and should have someone new at first that is about it,” said Ogden. “We are committed to mixing and matching and hopefully things will work out.”
The first home game for the Bulldogs will be against El Capitan at 3:30 p.m. March 1.