High School Softball: Lopez stepping up for Sailors

They are fixtures on the left side of the infield for the Newport Harbor High softball team.

Seniors Breanna Lopez and Lauren "Lou" Gandi typically play third base and shortstop, respectively. In those positions, they need to be able to communicate.

But, for Lopez, a different kind of talk that happened during the teammates' freshman year also made a huge difference.

"We were actually in the same French class together," Lopez said. "[Gandi] was just talking about how she played softball and how much fun it was. She just told me to come out and try out. That's what got me out here. It looked fun, and when I actually came out here and started playing and batting and everything, it kind of clicked for me."

Lopez has never looked back. She's now a four-year varsity starter for the Sailors.

This season, second-year coach Russell Hartman also has asked her to bat leadoff. Lopez didn't blink.

The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week certainly looked comfortable in that spot in the Battle of the Bay game this year. On the very first pitch of the game against rival Corona del Mar, she laid down a bunt single.

She helped spring a big three-run first inning in what became a 6-0 Newport Harbor win, the Sailors' sixth in a row over the Sea Kings. Lopez finished the game three for four with two runs scored, and two stolen bases.

The players, some of whom grew up together playing for the former Pacific Coast Softball (now Newport Mesa) posed for pictures together after the final out. But make no mistake, it felt good for the Sailors to win the rivalry game.

"We've always been rivals with CdM, so it's always good to get a victory over them," Lopez said. "I guess at this point, it's like tradition. We have to win. You don't want to be that class that loses."

Lopez has been a valuable contributor this year for the Sailors, who went into this weekend's prestigious Woodbridge Softball Classic with a 3-10 record. Through Friday, she was batting an even .300 with five stolen bases. She also hit her first home run of the season March 30, in a 3-1 loss to Paramount at the Savanna tournament.

Like any good leadoff hitter, Lopez makes contact. She has struck out just three times in 40 at-bats. Last year, she struck out just six times in 85 at-bats.

One of Hartman's memories of this year's Battle of the Bay is how Lopez got drilled in the leg on one of her stolen bases. Undeterred, she got up and advanced to third base.

"She brings a toughness to the team," Hartman said. "She's got a lot of grit to her. I think they call it, 'beast mode.'"

"Beast mode" is a catch phrase this year for the Sailors. Lopez said the players have bracelets with the words written on them.

Lopez certainly brings that attitude. Growing up in Huntington Beach, she played other sports like basketball, track, volleyball and soccer at Mesa View Middle School.

She moved in the summer of 2009, right before her freshman year at Newport Harbor. She played junior varsity basketball that freshman year, but with the help of Gandi, she soon found softball.

"[Former coach] Tony Qualin put me at third, to see how I was there," Lopez said. "He just left me there. When I didn't play third, I played in the outfield."

Now she is part of a strong senior class for Harbor, with players like Gandi, second baseman Hanna Van Voorhis and the team's two co-captains, Hattie Marshall and Hope Noakes. Marshall was last year's Newport-Mesa Player of the Year.

The senior class very much wants to win a Sunset League game this year, breaking the program's 52-game losing streak in league dating to 2007. The league schedule starts Tuesday, when the Sailors play host to Edison.

"We still have a lot of our seniors, so I think that gives us an advantage going into Sunset League," Lopez said. "We were pretty close last year, so I think this year we can get a win. I'm pretty optimistic ... We'll see how we do. We want to be in 'beast mode.' That's our thing."

Lopez extends it to the classroom, where she said she had a 4.6 grade-point average last semester. She has taken six Advanced Placement classes at Harbor, including her current slate of AP Psychology, AP Comparative Government and AP English.

The heavy course load makes sense. Lopez said she'd like to be a doctor one day.

For now, she is working on making her senior year with the softball team a special one.

"She's just an athlete," Hartman said. "She's a big, strong girl, and her speed sneaks up on people. They're not really expecting it."

Maybe now they will.


Twitter: @mjszabo

Breanna Lopez

Born: Dec. 15, 1994

Hometown: Huntington Beach

Height: 5-foot-5

Sport: Softball

Coach: Russell Hartman

Favorite food: Italian food

Favorite movie: "Lord of the Rings" trilogy

Favorite athletic moment: Hitting her first home run of the season in the Savanna tournament, against Paramount.

Week in review: Lopez, a senior third baseman and outfielder, helped Newport Harbor win the Battle of the Bay for the sixth straight year, 6-0, over CdM on March 27. She was three for four with two runs scored and two stolen bases.

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