Now that the clouds are gone and the rain has subsided, Foothill League softball is coming into focus.
Looking to defend their league title, Valencia (8-4 overall) returns a slew of Division 1 talent as they have numerous players heading on to play at the college ranks.
Shea O’Leary (Texas signee) and Allysa Shipman (Tennessee signee) form a formidable “one-two punch” as O’Leary dominates the other teams’ hitters with her pitching and Shipman takes care of the hitting as she is one of the top hitters for the Vikings.
“As they go, we go,” said Valencia coach Donna Lee. “Softball is all about pitching and they have such a great partnership. Ally is the brains and Shea is the arm. For the most part they have been the face of Vikings’ softball for the past four years they have been here.”
Young and talented freshmen Emma Bramson and Delaney Scully are doing their part and look to play a big part in Valencia’s future.
“We have such a tough league. If you don’t have a great day, you can be beaten,” Lee said. “You have to respect everyone from Saugus to Golden Valley and you have to play hard. Bragging rights are big out here since most of these kids have been playing together since they were little.”
Going undefeated in league, the Vikings will try to try score and score often with the help of Amarys Miller-Godsey (Fairleigh Dickinson signee) and Noel Dominguez (College of Charleston signee) who have been hitting well in the non-league portion of their schedule.
After spending last season in Division 3, Hart softball (3-7) joins the Vikings once again in Division 1.
“We were in Division 3 last year, but I have always tried to play as many Division 1 schools as possible,” said Hart coach Steve Calendo. “Early this season we have been having a rough time because of injuries and some other issues.”
Making it all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship last year, Hart’s roster looks destined to have a similar year as they add incoming transfers in utility player Kathryn Smudde (Sierra Canyon) and pitcher Amanda Souza (Saugus).
With Aly Kaneshiro (UC Davis commit) behind the plate the Indians will have steady hands and someone that they can trust to catch their heat.
“All the new faces add some new, fresh energy to the team. With the transfers and incoming freshmen that we have, I feel good about our team,” said Calendo.
Notre Dame commit Brooke Marquez also returns for her junior season with the Indians. Last season, Marquez boasted a .480 batting average to go with 19 RBIs in 75 at-bats, according to MaxPreps. She was consequently named a FloSoftball All-American and an All-SCV second-teamer.
Also trying to make a splash in Division 1 this season are a young and talented group of Centurions.
Saugus (10-4) boasts an impressive roster with only three seniors.
Finishing second behind Valencia last season, the Cents return four underclassmen all who have already committed to Division 1 college programs.
Of the four, McKenna Gibson, Gracie Keene and Hayley Mihut all committed to playing in the Southeastern Conference before the beginning of the season.
Libbie McMahan is the lone sophomore of the group, who will one day suit up for UC Davis.
Entering his second year at the helm, Golden Valley coach Daniel Soto surpassed expectations last year as the Grizzlies were in a “rebuilding stage” and won a program-best 12 games.
The Grizzlies (7-1) were rewarded with a third-place finish in league and moved up to Division 3 this season.
Returning for the Grizzlies is Boise State signee Cassidy Cangemi and Stanford commit, Sophia Medellin.
Cangemi takes the mound as their ace, while Sophia Medellin lines up at shortstop in her last year for Golden Valley.
Compiling a 10-2 record and on a current four-game winning streak, the Wildcats have already matched the total number of games they won last year and are looking to capitalize on this year’s start.
“I think part of it starts with the coaches believing in what the girls can do. By showing them that we believe in them, they respect us and it shows,” said first year coach Phil Giarrizzo. “They have each other’s backs, they are one unit. We didn’t see that last year… They are in the cages every day, minimum hitting balls 100.”
Scary to think that with catcher Delaney Bevan’s return to the team, West Ranch (10-2) gets even better.
“Delaney has been out with some torn cartilage. She caught for the first time last weekend and she looked really good,” said Giarrizzo.
In last weekend’s showing against El Camino, ace Jenna Rorick showed what she was made of, pitching nine innings to collect the win for West Ranch.
“This is my first year coaching varsity, so I haven’t really seen the rest of the teams in league. I think we will be very competitive,” he said. “At any given day any team can win, it just matters which team shows up.”
Finishing tied for third place last season, Canyon will look to jump up in the Foothill League rankings.
Winning three out of the last five games played, the Cowboys (4-7) look like they are finding their stride with a Foothill League play right around the corner.
A junior trio consisting of Kate Post, Kailee Powell and Melissa Spencer will look to continue their recent success.
A native Angeleno, Diego is a sports aficionado that has played and covered multiple sports since he was a child. He is a graduate of California State University, Northridge and is a sports writer for The Signal.