SaugusIt took defending co-Foothill League champion Saugus a few games to find its footing, but it appears a solid mix of freshmen and veterans has found its way. The Centurions (10-6) have won nine of their last 12 games. That’s without one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s best-ever pitchers, Mariah Lopez, who graduated and is excelling at the University of Oklahoma. Saugus now employs a trio of pitchers – junior Angeline Riley, sophomore Leslie Reynaga and freshman Libbie McMahan. “I’m confident in all three of them for league play,” said coach Julie Archer. “They all throw a little different.” McMahan, who started on the varsity basketball team as well, is manning second base when not in the circle.
ValenciaThe numbers leap off the page. Junior catcher Ally Shipman (University of Tennessee commit) is 24 for her first 37 at the plate this season (a .649 average). Her on-base percentage is over .700. She’s hit six home runs, five doubles and two triples. It’s no wonder one rival Foothill League coach has said on the record that he will walk Shipman, Valencia’s leadoff batter, regardless of the situation, even with the bases loaded. Shipman forms one of the Southern Section’s best batteries with junior pitcher Shea O’Leary (University of Texas), who’s been equally as dominant. Through 89 2/3 innings, O’Leary holds a 1.64 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 20 walks. “If she pitches the way she pitched today,” said coach Donna Lee after last week’s 2-1 win over nationally ranked La Habra, “I don’t think anyone can touch her in league.” The only question, then, is will the defending co-Foothill champion Vikings (9-5), ranked No. 6 in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 1, receive enough offensive production outside of Shipman? Left fielder Kelia Paragas is the team’s second-leading hitter (.300 average), while shortstop Noel Dominguez (College of Charleston) is one of the league’s most talented juniors and Kyla Hardy (third base) and Alexis Genovese (second base) are returning starters.
West RanchFirst-year Wildcats coach Jay Creps speaks with a refreshing level of candor. “I see Valencia being really strong and finishing No. 1, I really do,” he said. “I’m planning on finishing No. 2. Whether we do that or not, we’ll see how that goes.” But… “We’re going to do everything we can to beat them. Believe me,” he said. “(When we play Valencia), I will start (pitcher Makenna) Harper, and we’ll go right after them. We’re going to walk their catcher every time.” That catcher, of course, is Shipman. The Cats (5-6) have a Division 1-bound backstop of their own, though. Kennedi Sorensen (New Mexico State) returns for her third full varsity season, as does her twin sister Kalei (St. John’s), a first baseman. A lower body injury has limited Kennedi to two games, but she’ll start in West Ranch’s opener at Golden Valley today. So too will Harper (Arizona State), who hasn’t played in a game since March 15 due to an injury. The lefty will pitch today but also plays centerfield and possesses power at the plate. Sophomore Jenna Rorick, a righty, also pitches. Both hurlers have been effective but have struggled with walks. As a team, West Ranch has succumbed to the big inning. In all but one of its losses, it has allowed at least a three-run frame. Still, the Cats, who have won three of their last five, have the bats to win a shootout. Senior shortstop Jaclyn Napoli (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) has hit six home runs and racked up 20 RBIs. Right fielder Sara Olson leads the team with a .500 batting average. She’s five for five in stolen base attempts. The Cats have stolen 28 bags as a team.
CanyonThe Cowboys (7-7) sit in a much better place today than they did on March 7, when they lost 8-7 to Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, their fifth loss in a row. Since then, Canyon has rattled off five wins in seven games, capped by a 12-2 win over Moorpark on Tuesday. “Our confidence has been boosted,” said first-year coach Jeanette Sauceda Reynolds. First baseman Kailee Powell (University of Illinois) is again the Cowboys’ leading hitter. Coming off a sophomore year in which she hit .600, Powell is 16 for her first 41 (.390) with three home runs and 12 RBIs. She hits third in the lineup, one spot behind junior shortstop Melissa Spencer (.385). Second baseman Meisha Murray leads off (.375, six steals). Senior Jessica Goodspeed (40 2/3 innings, 2.41 ERA) is the team’s main pitcher, but she had her appendix removed two weeks ago, according to her coach, and likely won’t return until after spring break. Kaitlyn Post, Katina Fildisis and Micaela Rodriguez will mind the position in the meantime.
Golden ValleyFirst-year coach Daniel Soto has set a definitive goal for his team — he wants a winning record through the Grizzlies’ 10 league games. Soto also knows the key to Golden Valley attaining that mark: pitcher Cassidy Cangemi (Boise State). Through 60 innings, the junior has posted a 1.52 ERA with 98 strikeouts against 15 walks. “She’s always going to keep us right there,” Soto said. “It’s just a matter of getting some runs and giving her support. We’re not going to be out of any game.” Golden Valley’s lineup is nothing to sniff at, either. Stanford-bound shortstop Sophia Medellin is hitting .500 (11-for-29) with four home runs and 14 RBIs. Jasmine Carbajal (.478) and Cangemi (.429) are close behind in the offensive production department. Second baseman Nicole Smart (.360), designated player Vanessa Gardea (.346) and catcher Vanessa Felix (.333) give the Grizzlies (9-6) a deep lineup. “I think any coach would be crazy to tell you they’re not trying to win league,” Soto said. “We’re out there trying to win it. Now, is that realistic? I don’t know. I think we’ll be in every game.”
HartIt’s the same question, different year for Hart. Yes, the Indians (7-5) have the bats. They’re hitting .356 as a team, with four players slugging north of .690. But, can Hart piece together enough solid innings in the circle to contend for a Foothill League title? “We’re hitting well. We’re playing solid defense,” said coach Steve Calendo. “But we’re pitching by committee. We’re optimistic we’ll be able to get a lot done that way. “ Senior Kylie Norwood (University of Toledo) has once again volunteered to pitch, sharing duties with Brooke Dragoloski and, when she gains eligibility next week, transfer Cassandra Trevizo. Norwood’s primary value, though, lies at the plate. She currently leads the team with a .590 average (23-for-39). Andrea Cespedes, Abby Sweet (Notre Dame), Aly Kaneshiro and Jordyn Gasper (University of Utah) round out the other Indians hitting .400 or above. Kaneshiro, a freshman catcher and a starter on Hart’s varsity basketball team, leads Hart with 19 RBIs. “Keep an eye on that kid,” Calendo said. Hart has been without star shortstop Brooke Marquez (Notre Dame) for most of the year due to a broken wrist. She returned for two games but promptly broke the thumb on her throwing hand. Calendo hopes to have her back after spring break.