As winter turns into spring, the high school softball season is at hand and will feature a number of new faces in the varsity dugouts around the area.
Of course, this means an influx of talented underclassman, but this season also marks a significant turnover in those filling out the line-up cards. Four area teams, all of which made the playoffs last year, will look to new head coaches in 2013.
Another four teams will be headed by coaches entering their sophomore season at the helm, looking to build on the experience gained in their first campaigns at their respective schools.
San Marino High is on to its third coach in as many years, but this time the one they picked is no outsider. The Titans have gone into their past to pull former coach Mitch Dimkich back into the fold.
“It’s great to be back at San Marino High School,” Dimkich, who last coached the Titans in 2008, said.
Once again, San Marino will lean heavily on the offense and arm of two-time all-
-Southern Section Division V pitcher Michelle Floyd. The senior’s impact on the San Marino program has been undeniable, as the Titans have won 50 games in her three seasons versus 24 in the three before her arrival, despite the turnover at coach.
However, softball is a team game, and Dimkich is fortunate enough not only to have Floyd for a final season before she moves on to play on scholarship at the
next year, but also a core of experienced players from last year’s team that won 17 games, finished second in the Rio Hondo League and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
“The success of the Titans this season will depend on our teamwork and dedication to achieve a CIF playoff berth,” Dimkich said. “No one player on the Titan team is bigger than the team.”
Dimkich sees returning core players Floyd, Raquel Edmonds, Allison Lee, Lindsay Salebar, and twins Emily and Erin Stenwall as key elements to San Marino’s success this year. The coach also cites Caitlyn Callahan and Kelly Crowley as developing players who could emerge this season.
Pasadena Poly is the only area school ranked in the CIF Southern Section preseason coaches’ poll, coming in at No. 8 in Division VI. However, gone is coach Santee Vallejo, who has been moved to work with the baseball team, and in is Steve Beerman, who also serves as the athletic director among other coaching responsibilities at the school.
“[The girls] are well coached and I’m just going to try to build off last year’s experience,” said Beerman, who has previous experience assisting softball coaches in the past. “[I’ll be] building on a strong foundation that they already have.”
The Panthers, who advanced to the second round of the Division VI playoffs last year, lost just two seniors from that Prep co-league championship team. This means they return an experienced corps of 10 girls, including junior Kelly Berg, whose bases-clearing double on the last at-bat of the regular season against Rio Hondo Prep claimed their share of the league crown from the co-champion Kares.
Beerman, who describes his style as aggressive, has high hopes for another league championship and a return to the postseason.
“It may take some time for me to get to know the girls and for them to get to know me,” Beerman said, “but by April and May, we’ll be playing good softball.”
Poly will open its season against Marshall Fundamental, another team that will be led by a first-year coach. Long-time coach
resigned after the Eagles’ final CIF-Southern Section Division VI playoff game last season, which saw them win 17 games and finish third in the competitive Alpha League. The replacement Marshall had lined up fell through in December, but Laura Zeronian stepped up to lead this season with the help of two longstanding Eagles assistants.
“We have many returning four-year seniors and our freshman are going be an extra boost to the team that actually were a great surprise to us,” Zeronian said.
This new coach’s biggest asset looks to be her daughter, Amy Zeronian. The All-CIF infielder will finish her Eagle career with her mother as coach before continuing her softball career as a scholarship player at Belmont University after graduation.
“I actually started out with her, so it’s a very nice way to end her beginning years of softball, age seven where I was coaching her to now her senior year in high school,” the coach said of her daughter. “I wasn’t expecting to be coaching this year. I thought I’d be on the sidelines cheering her along, but [coaching] is an extra bonus. I’m really excited to be with her.”
The younger Zeronian will also pitch again this season. Newcomer freshman Kayla Abdullah will spell her in the circle and alternate at shortstop with the Eagles’ star.
Mayfield, a Prep League squad, will also look to new coach Scott Egan after finishing fourth in league, resulting in a trip to the Division VI playoffs, where the Cubs lost in the wild-card round.
“Day in and day out, I’d like to see them go out and continue to learn the game,” Egan said, “and through their maturation gain great, positive experience.”
Egan sees Mayfield’s key players as senior pitcher/shortstop Jessica Parada, underclassman Imani Mitchell, and senior Claire Penney.
The most successful first-year coach last season was Kelly Korras at Westridge, which won a Division VI wild-card playoff game in 2012.
“I have pretty high expectations,” Korras said, “Last year we finished third [in the Prep League]. I think we have a good chance of winning it this year if we play together as a team.”
once again look to junior Jackie Pai, who had over 100 strikeouts last year, to lead her team from the circle. Fellow juniors Syndey Estrada and Erin Golden promise to also be key contributors.
South Pasadena’s second-year coach is Ted Mureau, and his goals are simple for this season after his squad finished under .500 last year, near the bottom of Rio Hondo, and missed the playoffs.
“We are looking for improvement,” Mureau said. “We like to be at least .500 or better [and] make CIF. So that’s pretty much our goal for this year, especially making the CIF playoffs.”
At Pasadena High, coach Ed McCarthy enters his second year seeking to elevate the Bulldogs’ program into a competitive force in the Pacific League.
“The expectations for the season are high,” McCarthy said. “We have a new girl, Rachel Albright, coming in from La Salle over to here and she’s a top-area pitcher. So, expectations are really high.”
Skyler Hull, one of several talented freshman, will be the Bulldogs’ second pitcher to be used as needed.
“Last year, I felt we did pretty good considering we had to give up some runs because of pitching,” McCarthy said. “We had to manufacture a pitcher, so this year we don’t have to do that, so we can concentrate on defense and the little odds and ends of softball.”
Also in the Pacific League, Muir, who went winless last season, will most likely struggle again this season. However, coach Michael Bendy, in his second year heading the softball program after moving over from baseball, sees things starting to look up.
“I believe if we can catch and throw and have knowledge of what is in front of us, we will be a much better team than the last five seasons,” Bendy, who graduated from Muir in 1979, said.
The Mustangs’ top hitter will be Jade Davis, and freshman Vanessa Aragon will see important action covering many positions as needed.
La Salle has a coach in Rich Diaz, who is heading into his fourth year as the head man and last year finished third in the Del Rey League, leading to a wild-card loss in the Division III playoffs.
However, with graduation and the defection of Albright to the Bulldogs, the Lancers do not have a pitcher with varsity experience. In the circle, the Lancers will go with two freshman in ace Paula Damas and Vanessa Dwyer.
The Lancers do return their entire infield. Another major advantage for the Lancers and their freshman hurlers will be returning catcher senior Stephanie Ferri.
“I’ve got an outstanding catcher,” Diaz said. “In my mind, the best catcher in the area. She’s a first team all leaguer.”
The area team with the longest-tenured coach is Maranatha, whose Scott Sommers is in his sixth year. This year’s squad mantra is “the we is greater than me.”
“We’re going to compete. I think we’re going to compete well. We’ve got eight returners, but we’ve got some pretty exciting new girls,” Sommers said.
Two of the new players the Minutemen will look to are sophomore Karen Lieng, who transferred in from Keppel, and her sister Michelle, who is a freshman.
“Michelle will get significant time in the circle for us,” Sommers, who will feature top returner Angie Amezquita at pitcher, said.