If there's one thing that worries Coach Robert Melendrez about his young Calvary Chapel team, it's defense. Or lack of it.
"I'm concerned about it," Melendrez said as his team heads into the Southern Section 1-A playoffs. "If we can keep the ball in the infield, we have a shot."
The Eagles (10-8), who don't have a senior on the roster, have committed 122 errors this season, including 101 in the outfield and at catcher. But they have counterbalanced their fielding inefficiencies with a potent offense that features five batters with averages of .321 or better.
Melendrez hopes the team, which finished second in the Arrowhead League after taking fourth place in its first year of play last season, can keep the mistakes to a minimum and string a few timely hits in its first-round game at Whittier Christian (10-7) today.
"Our strength is offense," said Melendrez, who was an assistant coach on the team last year. "We have five or six girls who are outstanding hitters."
The Eagle attack is led by junior third baseman Sandy Farris, the league's most valuable player, who has a team-high .448 batting average with 18 runs batted in. Junior pitcher Georgie Bogert is second on the team in batting at .389, followed by freshman first baseman Kim Schroy (.382, three home runs, 17 RBIs), sophomore shortstop Amanda Mahlo (.381, 25 runs scored, 17 stolen bases) and junior second baseman Renee Madrid (.321).
Bogert, a right-hander, does most of the pitching. She is 10-7 with 87 strikeouts, but her 3.10 earned-run average is considerably high for high school softball.
However, Calvary Chapel does most of its damage at the plate. Melendrez credits the success of his hitters to being more mature and to the experience they gained from playing against 4-A schools such as Anaheim and El Modena.
"We were in our infancy last year," Melendrez said. "The girls have gotten bigger and stronger."
Regardless of how they do against Whittier Christian today, Melendrez said he's already pleased with the team's play this season.
"The most important thing about this team is that it's on its way up," Melendrez said.
By the end of the playoffs next year, they might be saying, "The Eagles have landed."
The Small Schools Division features three county teams, including hard-hitting Liberty Christian.
The Academy League champion Minutemen (11-9), who host Hesperia Christian (15-3) in a first-round game Friday, have four players batting at least .400--Jen Caruso (.476), Melissa Grippo (.444), Amy Coffman (.414) and Heather Brock (.400). Grippo also has four home runs and 37 RBIs and Caruso has scored 44 runs and stolen 15 bases. Brock has knocked in 23 runs.
Other county schools playing Friday are Garden Grove Claremont (12-4), the Express League champion, at home against Avalon (6-10), and Academy League runner-up St. Margaret's (10-1) playing host to Downey Calvary Chapel (9-8).
Defending champion: Agoura.
Top teams: La Reina (17-5), Paraclete (23-1), Pasadena Poly (16-4), St. Bonaventure (13-6), Tehachapi (12-5), Western Christian (15-3).
Dark horse: Moorpark (14-7).
Key players: La Reina's Erin Betrick (designated hitter) is batting .471 with 13 runs batted in; Calvary Chapel's Georgie Bogert (pitcher) is 10-7 with a 3.10 earned-run average and 87 strikeouts; Calvary Chapel's Sandy Farris (third baseman) is batting .448 with 18 RBIs; Whittier Christian's Deborah Goddu (pitcher) is 8-0 with a 0.18 ERA; St. Bonaventure's Kari Hawkins (third baseman) is batting .531 with two home runs; Calvary Chapel's Kim Schroy (first baseman) is batting .382 with three home runs and 17 RBIs; Paraclete's Laura Staats (pitcher) is 14-1 with a 0.13 ERA and 176 strikeouts; La Reina's Michelle St. Pierre (pitcher) is 12-1 with a 0.25 ERA.
Noteworthy: Defending champion Agoura jumped all the way up to 5-A and failed to make the playoffs in that division. . . . Whittier Christian (10-7) and Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (9-3), the only county teams in the 1-A playoffs, play each other in a first-round game today.