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Valencia softball goes back-to-back 

The Valencia softball team celebrates winning the 2024 Foothill League title. Photo courtesy of Valencia softball.
The Valencia softball team celebrates winning the 2024 Foothill League title. Photo courtesy of Valencia softball.

For the first time in six years, Valencia Vikings softball defended its title and won consecutive Foothill League crowns. 

Valencia (20-4, 12-0) capped a perfect season in league play last week with a 13-0 win at Golden Valley to clinch the clean 12-0 record. 

Sean Pollard has led the Vikings in his first two years at the helm and now earns his first undefeated Foothill League season. One of the main ingredients in Valencia’s winning recipe: determination. 

“Determination. They’re tough and ready for anything,” Pollard said. “They don’t give, they’ll just battle for however many innings and for however long with anyone. They’re all just real competitive, but they play for each other, and that’s key.” 

Leading the way from the circle was junior pitcher Carly Kearns.  

Kearns finished league play in her second year as the Vikings’ No. 1 pitcher with a 12-0 record, 1.48 ERA, 74 strikeouts and gave up just one extra-base hit.  

“Carly’s been just amazing,” Pollard said. “We’ve been playing really good defense behind her and we need to maintain that. But obviously, good pitching helps a lot.” 

Seniors Hope Seper and Abby Garcia led the way on offense with 21 hits apiece. Seper, a Pittsburgh commit, also led the team with seven doubles while Garcia batted an absurd .677 in Foothill League action. 

“It sounds bad but I just stopped caring,” Garcia said on her approach. “When you think, ‘I need my stats to be good,’ is when you start getting in your head thinking you need to be to perfect and you start thinking too much about everyone except yourself, and a lot of times when I think I can’t, I shouldn’t make this mistake, that’s then when you make that mistake. Once I block everything out and I go to hit, I just don’t think about anything. Once you clear your mind, the rest will follow.” 

Also returning to the Vikings lineup was third baseman Ally Wolf and sophomore Blair Rune, who each brought in 15 runs and hit three home runs in league play. 

Valencia had some holes to fill and a sour taste in its mouth after last season despite the league championship. The team fell one game short of a 12-0 season when Hart spoiled the perfect record in the league finale last year.  

“Last year was kind of a wake-up call,” Kearns said. “I feel like we just were too comfortable going into that last game of the season thinking that we could just claim it and win but it just showed that we have to lock in every game. Every inning counts.” 

In her sophomore season, Kearns took over in the circle and was eased into the role by now CSU Fullerton catcher Addison Snyder. Now a junior, Kearns quickly flipped roles and has now become the veteran in the dynamic with the sophomore Rune.  

“I definitely learned a lot from Addison and she’s been a great role model to me and helped me be the pitcher I am today,” Kearns said. “I think Blair’s an amazing catcher and she’s really helped me become a great pitcher, too.”  

Rune is young, but has quickly proven she belongs, as she has now posted two consecutive years on varsity batting over .390 in league play. Not to mention, she’s also already calling all the pitches as just a sophomore. 

“Blair is phenomenal,” Pollard said. “They formed a really amazing connection in the offseason and maybe even a little early in the season. They’ve really combined into a really good combo. Blair pretty much calls all pitches. We’ll come up with game plans together, her father’s our pitching and catching coach, so we’ll all work together on some game plans but they call the pitches. She does a really good job. Carly and her are really tight.” 

Three freshmen not only made varsity for the champion Vikings, they also rounded out the lineup.  

“We had three girls that are freshmen that were able to come in and they’ve all really contributed for us,” Pollard said. “They’ve been amazing. We’re looking forward to a few years with them going forward. We’ve been really lucky that they’ve been able to jump right in and really provide a spark for us. It’s been huge.” 

Victoria Tejeda took over at second base, Sydney Bolder covers right field on top of being a top-of-the-order hitter while Riley Josett has also flashed her skill at the plate, batting .419. 

Most of the Vikings agreed that they felt like a 12-0 season was realistic coming out of the Tournament of Champions at Bullhead City in Arizona. Valencia faced some of the toughest teams on the West Coast and ended the tourney with three wins. 

“I think Bullhead really showed us that we can play well against better competition and we can go far as a team,” Garcia said. “We saw what we could do and we used it. We never gave up and we just kind of went through that the whole year.” 

After Bullhead, Valencia hit the throttle and went on to win 13 of its last 14 games of the season. The Vikings beat Hart 2-0 to open up league play in early March, avenging last season’s loss. From there, the team rattled opponents and played in just four games decided by less than two runs. 

While Valencia hits, pitches and plays defense all well, the team also plays for each other. 

“What’s really fun to watch is their excitement for each other,” Pollard said. “They wanna see each other succeed and you can really just feel that togetherness. They root for each other and celebrate each other.” 

Garcia agreed with her coach and cited the team’s togetherness as a vital part of its success. 

“We all just kind of came together as a team,” Garcia said. “The bond that these girls have has done so much. It’s gotten us to where we are and I feel like that has contributed so much to how we’ve done this year. We all just support each other and that wins games more than talent.” 

Now Valencia turns its attention to the postseason. Valencia should get a favorable matchup as the second-ranked team in Division 2, as the program looks to end its six-year rut without a playoff win. 

Pollard and the girls know there are no cake walks in the playoffs, especially in Division 2. However, the squad is as confident as ever as winners of seven straight while only giving up two runs in their last six games. With the team’s determination, Valencia will give any team a run for its money. 

“I’m super excited for playoffs,” Kearns said. “I feel like if we just play how he played in league, we can definitely go far.” 

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