Saugus softball duo brings home All-Foothill League honors

Teammates celebrate as Gracie Keene (20) of Saugus rounds first base after hitting a two run home run in the third inning against Valencia earlier this season. Dan Watson/The Signal

This year’s All-Foothill League softball player of the year Gracie Keene and pitcher of the year Leslie Reynaga emphasized the same cliche: Hard work pays off.

For Reynaga, the phrase is defined as four years of dedication to her craft and learning from those who came before her.

Reynaga is part of a lineage of successful Centurions, including Mariah Lopez, who is currently pitching for Oklahoma in the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. Lopez was a senior at Saugus when Reynaga was a freshman.

“I would watch the way that she throws to batters during games, the way she acts with her teammates,” Reynaga said. “I just really paid attention to a lot of that, but I pay attention to a lot of pitchers and the way that they throw so that if they’re really good, then it’ll help me and my game.”

Keene, a sophomore, has worked equally as hard as her teammate in the past two seasons but knows there is plenty to still be done.

“Winning player of the year as a sophomore motivates me to do even better these next two years,” Keene said. “A new goal of mine is to hopefully win it these next years as well. I understand that it’s a huge goal, but winning it this year proved to myself that hard work pays off and anything is possible.”

Reynaga recorded 88 strikeouts this season and logged 13 wins as the Centurions’ starting pitcher to go with a 1.89 ERA. Next season, she’ll play at Northwestern Christian University, an NAIA school.

This season, Reynaga worked on her power in order to help Saugus claim the Foothill League title and prepare for her college career.

Leslie Reynaga (24) pitches for Saugus against Valencia earlier this season. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I’m not the fastest pitcher in the world, but I’ve been working a lot on velocity and hitting different spots that wouldn’t be in the strike zone, maybe a little off of the plate, just working different things like that,” she said.

According to MaxPreps, Keene lead the Foothill League in home runs with eight and tied for the most RBIs with 35. She also had a .415 batting average and a .756 slugging percentage.

Keene said that she’s learned to play under pressure, a skill that she thinks can help her get All-League Player of the Year honors in the future.

“There is always going to be pressure as a player no matter what,” Keene said. “You have to learn to play through it, stay relaxed, and not think about things of that nature. If you stay out of your head and do what you’ve practiced day in and day out, the outcomes you’re hoping for will come.”

Outside of Saugus players winning player of the year and pitcher of the year, the Centurions continued to show up en masse on the first and second teams. Bella Alvarez, Dallas Andrews and McKenna Gibson were named first team; Allie Enright and Maya Avila were named second team and Libbie McMahan was honorable mention.

West Ranch, which made it to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship game, was also well represented. Adrienne Chang, Gianna Lombardi and Jenna Rorick were each given first-team nods and Sara Olson and Delaney Bevan were on the second team. Madison Flatt was named honorable mention.

Valencia’s Cheyanne Marxer and Emma Bramson were first-team honorees for Valencia, while Delaney Scully and Lani Paragas made second team. Alexis DeYoung was honorable mention.

Aly Kaneshiro was Hart’s only first-teamer. The Indians’ Kathryn Smudde and Brooke Dragoloski were second team and Briana De La Maza was honorable mention.

Canyon’s Micaela Rodriguez was first team and her teammate Erynn Morales was second team. Brielle Workman was named an honorable mention player.

For Golden Valley, Sophie Medellin made the cut for second team and Nicole Smart was tabbed honorable mention.

All of Saugus’ honorees were underclassmen except for one, showing that the Centurions could once again be a force next season.

“We feed off of each other,” Reynaga said. “So if one girl does good it just kind of goes on. Like that’s just how we are and that’s how it always has been with us.”

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