One might expect something like this to happen at Orangewood Academy, where there are only 31 girls on campus, but at Corona del Mar?
Both schools will be without varsity softball programs this season, though athletic directors at each are hopeful that softball will return in 1999.
The story at Corona del Mar is especially peculiar. Jami Shannon, beginning her 20th season coaching at Los Alamitos after growing up in Orange County, couldn't remember a public school canceling its season for lack of interest.
Neither could Corona del Mar Athletic Director Jerry Jelnick, who received approval from the Sea View League to play a junior varsity-only schedule after his coach, Robert Weibort, resigned Feb. 20, less than a month after being hired. Weibort's reason? Lack of participation.
"We only had six or seven girls," Weibort said, "and only about five girls at practice."
Of those, a senior, junior and sophomore have since decided not to play high school softball. The others will play on the junior varsity.
Explained Jelnick: "We have mostly freshmen and sophomores. Our numbers are up to 12 on the JV."
When numbers are up to 12 on the JV, you're in trouble.
The Southern Section could have insisted Corona del Mar field a varsity team, according to the section's bylaws; if only one team is fielded, it is to be a varsity team.
Fortunately for Corona del Mar, section officials were compassionate.
Three teams in the six-team Sea View league are ranked in today's Times preseason top 10--Woodbridge, El Toro and Irvine. Another, Santa Margarita, won 15 games last season.
Jelnick provided a schedule for Corona del Mar's opponents so they could see the other schools that suddenly had a date to fill.
"We're just glad the girls are practicing," Jelnick said. "The first JV game is on Wednesday against University."
Carey Bell at Orangewood Academy sent letters advising other schools of his team's predicament about two months ago. And he was profusely apologetic.
"If I was them," he said of other programs, "I'd be mad at me."
Bell, the athletic director, said he canceled the season because he could find only eight girls to play. They will field a lower-level team.
Enrollment at Orangewood dropped from 95 to 75 this year, Bell said, though he expects a slight increase to "probably a little over 80" next year.
"The athletes who would play softball, they suffered burnout," Bell said. "They're playing volleyball, basketball and softball, and some of them are just tired of playing."
One of the big questions surrounding Foothill is how the loss of Lauren Bauer is going to affect the Knights, who finished 1997 ranked fifth nationally in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Assn. poll.
Bauer was a three-time Times All-Orange County first-team player who is now starting and batting second for defending NCAA champion Arizona. Maybe no one will feel her loss more than two-time all-county shortstop Jaime Clark, who drove home 70 runs her first two seasons, including 39 in 1997.
Bauer batted leadoff for Foothill and stole 41 bases and scored 44 runs last season. With her, a single was as good as a double, and that was good news for Clark, who batted third.
Coach Joe Gonzalez admits it's easy to say run production will be down for the Knights, and for Clark, but he doesn't seem especially concerned about replacing Bauer with a freshman.
"It's going to be tough for a freshman to match [Bauer's performance], but we're very happy with what Erin Mobley does," Gonzalez said. "She has a great eye and works her way to a lot of walks, which is something we haven't had in a long time.
"It's not fair to compare her to Lauren, but we're very happy with her. She can fly."
If Mobley doesn't start in right field, she will lead off as the designated hitter.
Also at Foothill, Lauren Schwendimann is recovering from minor surgery on her knee on Feb. 5. She suffered a small tear under her kneecap while playing on the basketball team.
"We're going to take our time bringing her back; we have no timetable for her," Gonzalez said of his junior pitcher. "Lindsay Fossatti had the same surgery in November, and she's 100%."
Fossatti shared pitching duties last season; she was 15-1 with a 0.73 earned-run average. Schwendimann was 13-1, 0.42.
But Fossatti may not pitch while Schwendimann recuperates. At least, not Lindsay Fossatti.
Freshmen Courtney Fossatti and Elizabeth Bendig have emerged as the other Foothill pitchers.
"They did such a nice job [in a scrimmage against Pacifica and Mater Dei], they're battling for the other spot," Gonzalez said. "[Not pitching] seems to be cool with Lindsay. She's not going to pitch [next year] at Fresno State; she's an everyday player."
Foothill will be stronger with Fossatti in the field, moving from first base to replace sure-handed Jenny Beltran at third. Fossatti has twice been a second-team all-county player, as a first baseman her sophomore year and a utility player as a junior.
Two players from Chapman University are assisting at Orange, Lacee Collins (a basketball player) and Jenni Bankus (a catcher).
"They bring some credibility; in the case of Lacee, she's a freshman at Chapman, but on her high school team in Tucson, they were state softball champion two years," Panther Coach Rocky Parker said. "And Jenni is starting catcher. They can say this is what you need to be doing and focusing on.
"We're trying to make our program better."
Six freshmen who will play for the Panthers played for Central Orange, an under-14 national championship Bobby Sox team, so things could be looking up for Orange, which finished last season 5-18, 0-10 in the Century League.
"It should be interesting," Parker said.
The first week of softball, Connelly began its "Class Plays," an activity which requires most members of each class to participate in some way, either as actor or behind-the-scenes technician. That has prevented the Koalas from getting in sync, though it has done wonders for their dialogue.
Coach Kimberly Zavodnik said she has missed five to seven players for at least 30 minutes of every practice. The activity continued until Friday when students put on their performances.
"But despite that, we're still going to be good," chuckled Zavodnik.
"It's nice because they get to experience theater arts, but it's kind of frustrating as a coach."
The sophomores, by the way, did a satire on competition.