Mix of old and new for Vaqueros

Grant Gordon

The 2005 Glendale Community College softball team boasts just one

returning starter from a season ago.

But after a 2004 season that ended with a 9-27 mark and nothing to

boast about, perhaps that's a good thing.

Right-fielder Cindy Torres is that lone returning starter, but GCC

is also the beneficiary of three returning Lady Vaqueros from two

seasons ago: Kristen Carr, Bernice Sandoval and Miki Mayorga.

That, combined with some big-time bats and improved team chemistry

has GCC Coach Dave Wilder excited about the upcoming season.

"In all truth, I think we have a team that can do really well this

year," Wilder said. "We have 10 really solid players and they like to


After a season's hiatus, Carr will likely be key to the team's

success as she was an All-State selection in 2003, according to


Carr can play catcher and first base and will also be one of

Wilder's starting pitchers -- the other will be freshman Trisha Carr,

her sister.

Also returning from seasons off are second baseman Sandoval and

left fielder Mayorga.

"We've got some girls that are experienced and know what they're

doing," Wilder said. "We really lucked out."

Wilder also feels somewhat lucky to have a lineup he believes will

be the strength of the team. While the lead-off and No. 2 spots are

yet to be decided and will likely be filled by players from a speedy

outfield, his No. 3 hitter will be starting catcher Christina Kula,

who attended Eagle Rock High before joining the Navy.

Following Kula will be Kristen Carr in the clean-up spot.

"Those two are like Murderer's Row," Wilder said.

The fifth spot will be filled by shortstop Maritza Patini, who

Wilder calls a, "great, great infielder." She's also a solid fielder

up the middle who looks to shore up a defense that Wilder believes

will improve the more it gets to practice together. Practices before

today's opener on the road against Rio Hondo College at 3 p.m. have

been few and far between, due to weather.

Still, Wilder has seen a chemistry develop that was absent from

last season's team and should be a positive for this year's squad.

"Not only are they tough, but I've got a bunch of girls who like

each other and want to play together," Wilder said. "This year, we

have camaraderie. ... I think our chemistry this year is better than

it has been in years."

Shoring up the outfield will be Hoover graduate Carol Naygon --

the only area graduate on the team -- while freshman Emy Castaneda

is a, "gutsy, little player," according to Wilder and one he's

excited to have at the hot corner.

Nonetheless, the old and the new players, chemistry, batting and

defense will all have to improve should Wilder's bunch hope to

contend in the Western State Conference.

"We are in the toughest conference in California," said Wilder,

referring to a conference that featured five 20-plus-win teams last


Last season, College of the Canyons won its third Western State

South title in four seasons, while GCC finished with a conference

record of 7-13 in fifth place. But Wilder is ready to not only

improve his team's lackluster fortunes, but also contend for

conference and the postseason.

"The goal for us is to take first or second in our [conference].

That's what we've been talking about," Wilder said. "We want first or

second to get to regionals and then take it from there."

In the end, however, GCC's biggest question is also the key

component to all softball success.

"I think we're going to have solid defense and really good

hitting," Wilder said. "I think if we have pitchers who throw

strikes, we'll be good."

* GRANT GORDON covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3225

or by e-mail at grant.gordon@latimes.com.

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