HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL PREVIEW : Maher Drives Foes Batty : Versatile: Senior leads defending Southern Section 4-A champion Buena with her power and speed.


Kim Maher of Buena High has developed such a reputation as a dangerous hitter that Coach Sharon Coggins has trouble finding a place for her in the batting order.

In a game dominated by strong pitching and characterized by low scoring, Maher can determine the outcome with one swing.

Last season, Maher hit 13 home runs, including a solo shot against Western of Anaheim in the Southern Section 4-A Division championship. Buena won, 1-0, and is looking to Maher again as the 1990 season gets under way.

"Everyone knows about her," Coggins said, "and tries to pitch around her.

"That's the problem."

Coggins has batted Maher, a two-time all-Southern Section player, in the top six spots of the order, hoping to maximize her potential to produce runs.

But an opposing pitcher would rather walk Maher than see another pitch sail over the fence. Scoggins thinks she has a solution.

"The only thing I can do is bat her leadoff," Scoggins said. "She has so much speed that if they walk her, she can steal second and possibly third."

Coggins also has to decide where to play Maher, the team's top pitcher last season. Maher, who orally committed to UCLA, will play either first or third base if she's not pitching.

Possible replacements for Maher as Buena's No. 1 starter are No. 2 Kristi Parcel and sophomore Deven MacNair, who was promoted from the junior varsity.

The Bulldogs, who were 28-2, return six other starters from last year's championship team.

They include Jennifer Henry, an all-Southern Section catcher; junior shortstop Liza Eal; and senior Laurie Weidenheimer, who can play either second or third.

Kelly Higgins, who is being recruited by Hawaii, will play left field. Junior Amy Thomas will be in center and junior Angie Barnes in right.

Laura Klemm, the younger sister of basketball standout Mary Klemm, is the team's top reserve.

Buena, a Channel League member, has reached the playoffs eight of the past 10 years.

And the Bulldogs hope to repeat--even if it means that Maher has to walk to get there.

Other top teams in Ventura County include:

Oxnard (Channel League)--Instrumental in trying to return fast-pitch softball to Oxnard youth leagues, former co-Coach Donna Dente will have a bigger challenge resurrecting the Yellowjackets' struggling program. Dente must look to some young players for help.

Top returning starters are sophomore first baseman Telma Verdugo, junior middle infielder Joy Satterfield and junior center fielder Sally Castaneda. Chris Bautista will carry most of the pitching load and play third base.

Sophomore Nahni Greasby, who led the team last season with a .320 batting average, is suffering from a leg injury and will be limited to being a designated-hitter.

Another sophomore, Shana Branch, will start at catcher or right field.

Joy Epstein, who transferred from Thousand Oaks High, will pitch and play shortstop.

The Yellowjackets need to improve their hitting after losing several one-run games last season.

Thousand Oaks (Marmonte League)--The Lancers, two-time defending champions of the competitive Marmonte League, have two returning all-Southern Section players in multi-talented Amy Chellevold and Trisha Gregoire. Chellevold will move from left field to first base and Gregoire moves from third base to catcher.

Phronsie Franco will start her fourth season at shortstop and Erikka Gulbranson will move from the outfield to second base.

Senior right-hander Alicia Zinner, who has improved her control, will be the Lancers' ace on the mound. Senior Lisa Stoddard will be a backup pitcher and starting third baseman.

Simi Valley (Marmonte League)--The Pioneers have finished in second place three consecutive years but, despite losing two key starters, they are optimistic about finally winning a title this season.

Gone are all-league pitcher Chrissy Oliver (to Oklahoma State) and shortstop Denise Swank to (Cal State Northridge).

Junior Heather Santiago, a second-team all-league selection, will be the top returning pitcher after posting an 11-2 record last season. Sophomore Michele Castonguay will be her backup.

Returning sophomore infielders Taina Tande (shortstop) and Amy Powell (second base) give the Pioneers strength up the middle and seniors Gina Skinner and Erika Rustan are speedy outfielders.

St. Bonaventure (Tri-Valley League)--The Seraphs, league co-champions and Southern Section Division 1-A semifinalists a season ago, have their top two players returning.

Kathy Morales, who was the league's most valuable player, will pitch, as will junior Amy Krall when she's not playing first base.

They are intimidating pitchers and could be enough to carry the Seraphs to another league title.

But St. Bonaventure has five other returning starters, including all-league catcher Jill Cook.

Fillmore (Tri-Valley League)--The Flashes have four returning starters and are expected to contend for the league title despite the graduation of star pitcher Mary Riegso.

Senior April Phonce moves to shortstop from left field and is the team's best athlete. Other returning starters are catcher Melinda Martinez, left fielder Liz Lomeli and third baseman Juana Melgoza.

Brenda Castro will pitch full time after sharing the responsibilities with Riegso last season.

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