Valencia softball preps mentally for 2nd round

Valencia's Kelia Paragas (1) slides into second base as Great Oak's Cecelia Winters (19) ducks to tag her during a CIF-Southern Section playoff softball game at Valencia on Thursday. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Every gameday, each Valencia softball player gets a motivational quote attached to a snack at some point in the school day from coach Donna Lee.

The idea is to keep them mentally relaxed in the playoffs and in today’s case, for Foothill High of Santa Ana in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

First pitch is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. at Valencia.

“You’re not going to make many changes between now and the CIF finals,” Lee said. “You’re just not. It’s more of getting the kids in the mental frame of mind and that’s what it’s really all about.”

The Knights (18-12) are coming off a close 3-2 win that came in eight innings. The Vikings (23-7) are coming off a 2-0 win over Great Oak of Temecula.

Valencia pitcher Shea O’Leary threw a complete-game one-hitter and struck out 12 batters in the process.

“I’m just trying to accomplish hitting my spots and making sure that I really focus on hitting my spots and the 0-2 pitches, making sure I don’t get it on the plate, but make sure I try to make them whiff at it,” O’Leary said.

“And then just going out there and having confidence in myself.”

We’ll also be seeing more of Ally Shipman, who hit a two-run home run in the Great Oak game. It was a nice change from the intentional walks she had in the regular season.

“Oh my gosh,” Shipman said. “I feel like I haven’t seen live pitching in forever because I go up there and I just walk four balls and I’m like, ‘Come on.’ It feels so good. I’ve just got to stay focused and wait for my pitch.”

However, in the event that Shipman was walked, it forced her teammates to perform. Players like Kelia Paragas, Kyla Hardy and Noel Dominguez have stepped up to create a more powerful all-around offense.

“You’ve got to give her teammates kudos because once the other teammates pick up the slack, then it doesn’t benefit you to always walk Ship because the other person is coming up with a big hit,” Lee said.

Scoring early and playing strong defense are part of Lee’s game plan for her Foothill League Champion team. But for the players, it’s all about the mental game. O’Leary admitted that she and her teammates put themselves under unnecessary stress this season.

“Mentally we all just have to go out there and have our game,” she said. “That’s a big thing with us. We have some mental problems sometimes but we just kind of have to go out there and just have fun.”

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