Coaches and players from West, Tracy, Kimball and Millennium all say their squads have the talent, determination and spirit to make them successful in 2013.
Marty Torres, the Wolf Pack’s assistant coach since 2002, figured this year was the right time to move forward in his career and assume the role of head coach.
“It’s a chance to instill something I think I’ve instilled all along,” Torres said, “just going a step further.”
The team already has strong leadership built during previous winning seasons and from three seniors bound for NCAA Division I teams.
Senior center fielder Ciara Ervin, who will attend East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., has made the all-Tri-City Athletic League first team for three years in a row. That includes last year, when the Wolf Pack went 19-13 and 8-2 in the TCAL and moved on to the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
“I’m hoping to go further and take it all this year,” Ervin said. “We lost a lot of key players, but we always manage to get back up.”
Infielder Ashley Tornio, a four-year varsity starter who this fall will attend California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, sees a chance to pass along what she’s learned to the rest of the team.
“We’re bringing up some freshmen who will continue the program,” she said, “and that’s exactly what you need.”
The team’s returning seniors also include second baseman Celina Carrisosa, who will play for Portland State University in Oregon.
Torres said the main starting pitching job is still up for grabs, but junior Justina Farfan is a leading candidate, as are Tornio and senior Rikki Kirchefer.
The Jaguars have consistently met the challenge of their Valley Oak League rivals in two years as a varsity squad.
Kimball has battled Oakdale and Sierra for dominance, with the three teams fighting it in the final rounds of the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs before Oakdale beat Sierra for the division title.
Coach Joe Hernandez said the 2013 team has “a good foundation” that’s competition-tested.
Most of the players that took Kimball deep into the playoffs return with the goal of improving on their 25-6 overall and 12-2 VOL records from 2012.
Senior Arianna Hawkins will be one of the lineup’s anchors. In 2012, she batted .622 with a .929 slugging percentage and was the VOL’s co-Most Valuable Player — she heads to University of Virginia next year.
Also wielding big bats are Texas Southern University-bound senior third baseman Anisha Richardson, who in 2012 batted .295 with 35 runs batted in, and senior second baseman Llesenia Torres, who batted .456.
“We’ve always been strong together and have always competed with each other,” Torres said. “That will influence the others to want to be the same.”
Outfielder and pitcher Danielle Lallos and catcher Taylor Honnoll, both juniors, are also back for their third year on the varsity. Samantha Sarmiento will make the team as a freshman pitcher.
The Bulldogs bring back almost all of its players from last year, including two of the fastest baserunners in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Leadoff batter Ellie Fisher, a junior and two-time member of the all-San Joaquin Athletic Association first team, batted .558 in 2012 and was the section’s stolen base leader with 35 steals.
Next in the lineup is senior Brianna Warner, who batted .534 and, like Fisher, can consistently outrun throws to first base. But Warner said speed is only one part of what makes the Bulldogs successful.
“We have so much more skill than I’ve ever seen,” Warner said. “We have all the pieces. We just need to continue working together and mesh well and back each other up.”
Tracy’s power hitters include junior Jazmin Clarke, who led the San Joaquin Athletic Association with 35 RBIs last year, junior Sabrina George and senior Angela Mariani.
Junior pitcher Tayler Misfeldt, who went 10-1 last year, is also back after she helped the Bulldogs go 22-6 and 8-2 in the SJAA.
Tracy went to playoffs, but suffered a 5-3 upset loss in the first round to Sheldon of Sacramento, the eventual SJS Division I champion.
Greg Smith said last year’s team had a real shot at winning the section, and so does this year’s.
“There’s nothing that I feel that I’m lacking,” he said.
Coach Maegan Lunn credits
the Falcons’ early season
exuberance to winning a share of the 2012 Central California Athletic Alliance title and making their second trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship game.
She had 24 girls try out for 15 spots on the roster and said all the girls who made the team, including seven returning players, are capable of playing anywhere on the field.
“That’s why we had such a great turnout for tryouts,” Lunn said. “That’s going to make the girls earn their spots.”
The Falcons went 13-5 overall in 2012, including a 5-1 record in the CCAA to tie Elliot Christian of Lodi for first in the league.
Junior catcher Gabrielle Ramirez, who has been with the Falcons for two years, said the unity and focus of this year’s team are as strong as ever.
“We’re working very hard to get to playoffs again this year,” she said.
Other returning players include senior Breana Reyes, who batted .528 and twice has been named to the all-CCAA first team. Key new players include freshmen pitchers Amy Wise and Haylee Faultner.
Lunn expects that Elliot, which beat Millennium in the 2011 and 2012 division championship games, will be the Falcons’ toughest competition.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.