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Softball Preview: After return to top, Crescenta Valley looks to stay there

Softball Preview: After return to top, Crescenta Valley looks to stay there
Alyssa Hernandez and the Crescenta Valley High softball team are locked and loaded for a bid at a repeat Pacific League title. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

A softball season ago was one very much a longtime in the making.

Under All-Area Softball Coach of the Year Amanda Peek, Crescenta Valley High won its first Pacific League title since 2011.

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Behind the talent of All-Area Softball Player of the Year Sammy Fabian, Glendale grabbed its first postseason win this century.

What’s next is now ready to be played out, as Crescenta Valley retained most of its talent and has created buzz with some incoming freshmen, Glendale will look to others to take on the offensive load, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy has a host of talent in a tough league as it looks to get back into the playoffs, just like Flintridge Prep, Hoover and Holy Family.

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Crescenta Valley tied for first in league with Burroughs, posted a 21-8-1 record and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, where it will remain after realignment.

“We have a great group of girls coming back and a lot of leadership,” said Falcons coach Amanda Peek, the reigning All-Area Softball Coach of the Year. “Our girls are excited.”

All-Area standout Jessica Yzaguirre has moved on, but the Falcons return plenty of talent such as All-Area players Peyton Hause (.633 batting average, 31 runs batted in, 19 runs), a junior infielder, Alyssa Hernandez (.537, 24 runs, 24 RBI), a junior shortstop, and senior pitcher Emily Mulcahey.

Sophomore Maddie DeLeon is also back and there’s plenty of anticipation surrounding the arrivals of freshmen Ariana Chavez, Deedee Hernandez and Devon Medina.

With former All-Area Softball Player of the Year Presley Miraglia back to lead Burroughs, the Falcons and Indians could be duking it out for the league title again, but that’s the goal at hand for CV.

“That’s our goal,” said Peek of winning league titles. “Having a good year last year was something we want to build off.”

Glendale tied for fourth a season ago, posting a 15-10 record that included a thrilling 13-12 extra-inning CIF Southern Section Division III wild-card win. However, the winning run was scored by Fabian and driven in by All-Area catcher Tiffany Bartamian. The two four-year starters have moved on and so too must the Nitros.

“We’ll come out fighting as usual,” said Nitros coach Chris Funaro. “We have to replace two four-year starters, which is difficult.”

All-Area junior pitcher Aurora Funaro (1.87 earned-run average, 15-9 record) is back in the circle while multi-season starter Esme Piedra, a senior starter, will be looked upon to lead the lineup.

Other key returners will be senior center fielder Amanda Gonzalez, junior first baseman Clara Georges, senior outfielder Andrew Chacon and underclassmen Kylie Lousararian (sophomore second baseman), Jaimie Harris (sophomore third baseman) and Stacy Hernandez (freshman catcher).

“I think we’ll be in the mix [for a playoff spot] for sure,” coach Funaro said. “I think our defense will be better than it was last year. I think our hitting will come up with some timely hits and I think Aurora is going to be better.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart showcased some talent with some big numbers and produced a winning season in 2017, but the arduous nature of the Mission League prevented the Tologs from a postseason berth.

Overcoming that obstacle and getting consistent pitching will be the keys for Flintridge Sacred Heart once more.

“We have a solid nucleus,” said Tologs coach Kirk Nishiyama, whose team finished 16-8 overall but just 2-6 in league for fifth place. “For us, it’s always going to come down to our pitching.

“If we can get to the playoffs, I think there’s the talent to do well. … I think we have a good team, it’s just about getting through the Mission League is the thing.”

Alemany won the league title last season, finishing a game ahead of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Nishiyama believes those two are likely to be the top contenders again.

Nishiyama will answer with a talented lineup that includes reigning All-Area selections in Amanda Ramirez (.393, 35 runs, 19 walks, 17 RBI), a junior shortstop, Payton Tompkins (.429, 23 runs, 23 RBI), a senior outfielder, Cate Ziegler (.467, 27 runs, 31 RBI), a sophomore third baseman, Alli Lombardo (.380, 23 RBI, 30 runs), a senior second baseman/pitcher, and Amesie Noll (.400, 24 RBI, 34 runs), a junior outfielder.

“From an offensive standpoint, from No. 1 through No. 9 in the lineup, we could have one of the best lineups we’ve had in a long time,” Nishiyama said.

For FSHA, though, it comes down to pitching, with senior Courtney Rasic and Lombardo being called on to take their spots in the circle though neither is a true pitcher, according to Nishiyama.

Flintridge Prep lost six seniors from a team that went 9-9 with a 4-8 mark within the Prep League, falling on hard times to end the season as the Rebels lost their last five games.

“We come in pretty young,” Rebels coach Julie Mejia said.

The whole season was played without former All-Area player Natalie Dale, who is likely to sit out her senior campaign, also. Still, Libby Penn and Melissa Grande emerged and are All-Area returners.

Penn (.480, 13 runs, 18 RBI), a junior, will likely hold down first base, while Grande (.411, 32 RBI, 24 runs), also a junior, will be back at shortstop. Another returner is sophomore Olivia Stevens, who played catcher, but could move to pitcher as longtime starter Therese Oshiro graduated and the Rebels have nobody with experience to step into the circle.

Pasadena Poly won league last season, finishing a game ahead of Chadwick and three ahead of Mayfield. Rio Hondo Prep, Flintridge Prep and Westridge were all battling it out for the fourth spot. Mejia predicts a tight race this season.

“Every game you went into league was competitive for the most part,” said Mejia, whose team is in Division VII. “I think it will be a lot of the same.”

For Hoover (Division VI), numbers are positive and negative, as veteran Tornadoes skipper Rich Henning has 10 freshmen in the program, which bodes well for maintaining the junior varsity team and the future. However, he’s only carrying 10 varsity players.

The Tornadoes, who went 6-18 with a 2-12 mark in the Pacific League last season, are likely to be led by senior Olivia Jukes, the team’s leadoff hitter.

“She’s a player,” Henning said.

Senior Luana Richard is also likely to be a big contributor along with senior Britney Figueroa at third base, senior utility Judy Chayah, junior center fielder Catherine Villasenor and freshman Alexis Figueroa.

“We’ve got a little bit of speed and girls who put the ball in play,” Henning said. “[Our hope is] just to be as competitive as we can and just cross our fingers that every one of the underclassmen wants to come back.”

Holy Family’s aspirations are moderate as coach Greg Ziomek will have to continue to put players out of position as he’s without a true pitcher as in past seasons and forced to plug in his best players in the circle.

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“Again, we have no pitcher,” said Ziomek, whose team was 3-16, 1-9 in the Horizon League. “Our goal is to be respectable, maybe .500.”

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Junior shortstop Michelle Barraza is likely to be the team’s top player and will likely be thrust into pitching duties along with senior utility Jade Ochoa.

“Pitching is new to both of them,” Ziomek said.

Senior Jocelyn Flores will return at catcher, a position she was also thrust into due to an injury, and freshman Polly Tucker shows promise at first base.

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