There was no doubt that the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team was the class of the Santa Cruz League this past season.
The Guards captured their fourth straight league championship, going undefeated with an 8-0 record. The closest game the Guards experienced in league play was a 5-1 victory over St. Matthias. The other games weren't even close.
That success carried over into the playoffs. The Guards capped their season June 1 by defeating Mary Star of the Sea, 8-4, in the CIF Southern Section Division VI championship, giving the program its first title.
With that kind of success, it's not surprising that Bell-Jeff cleaned up when the All-Santa Cruz League awards were handed out. In fact, seven Guards earned all-league accolades.
Leading the way was senior shortstop Monique Landini, who was named the league's player of the year. Teammate Mia Acosta, a junior pitcher, was singled out as the league's pitcher of the year for the second consecutive season.
Making the first team was junior second baseman Tiffany Galindo, junior catcher Samantha Casarez, junior third baseman Cristina Colon and sophomore first baseman Sofia Palacios. Junior outfielder Priscilla Panizo was a second-team selection.
"Our team chemistry was amazing this season, and that's why we were able to be so successful," Landini said. "It's been more of a family with us this season. We all got along really well and that showed on the field."
Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo said Landini has been a valuable asset to the program since she broke in four years as a freshman and instantly earned a starting job.
"In her four years she really saw it all, and she was able to come through every year for the team," said Galindo, whose team finished the season 23-10. "Along with her great offense skills, she was also the anchor for us on the defense. It's an asset any time you can have a player like her up the middle.
"We asked her to do a lot this season and she was able to come through, on offense and defense. She was a real leader for us."
Landini batted .410 (41 for 100) for the Guards. In addition, she drove in 25 runs, scored 31 runs and had six doubles, seven triples, four home runs and a .730 slugging percentage.
The senior carried her league success over into the playoffs. In the Division VI championship game, Landini belted two home runs to pace the Guards to victory.
Now that her high school career is over, Landini — who won four league titles during her four seasons — will move on to St. Johns.
"Sometimes I'm a little nervous when I think about going and playing in college, but I'm also really excited to be going because it gives me a chance to keep playing," she said.
Acosta was a stalwart in the circle for the Guards. She compiled a 16-3 record with 102 strikeouts and had a 1.68 earned-run average in 116 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .192 off her. Acosta was also accomplished at the plate, hitting .446 (37 for 83) with 38 RBI, 24 runs, six doubles, four triples and five home runs.
"We always knew with Mia out there she was going to do her job as a pitcher," Galindo said. "It was just a matter of us getting the hits to help her out."
Casarez proved to be a steady contributor for Bell-Jeff, finishing with a .412 batting average (42 for 102) with 15 RBI and 31 runs scored. Tiffany Galindo hit .327 (34 for 104) with 13 RBI and 27 runs, Colon batted .352 (37 for 105) with 22 RBI, 31 runs and eight doubles and Palacios hit .391 (36 for 92) with 26 RBI, 23 runs and four home runs.
Rounding out the Bell-Jeff honorees, Panizo had a .352 batting average (31 for 88) with 22 RBI, 19 runs and two home runs.