2013 Sofball Preview

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West Hills Kaycee Aquiningoc.jpg

The spotlight on East County softball comes from all angles, including a national scope, thanks to a multitude of college scholarship athletes hailing from the region.

More than a dozen seniors have already signed NCAA National Letters of Intent, while many more student-athletes headed to smaller schools, plus several commitments from a handful of underclassmen.

The spotlight on East County softball comes from all angles, including a national scope, thanks to a multitude of college scholarship athletes hailing from the region.

More than a dozen seniors have already signed NCAA National Letters of Intent, while many more student-athletes headed to smaller schools, plus several commitments from a handful of underclassmen.

While those schools with multiple signees figure to contend, the sport still comes down to pitching depth. Proven arms feature El Capitan's Delanie Gourley, the reigning CIF San Diego Section player of the year (all divisions), as selected by the San Diego Hall of Champions' media panel.

However, the Vaqueros will be challenged in the Grossmont Valley League by Santana, thanks to pitcher Amber Schisler and one of the largest line-up of upper classmen ever — the Sultans return an amazing eight senior starters.

The Grossmont Hills League displays some nice arms in Steele Canyon's Grace Kramer, Kimmy Triolo of Granite Hills, and Cel Devila from Grossmont. They may give their respective school the edge to upstage West Hills, which was won or shared league titles four times over the past six seasons.

Grossmont Hills League (teams listed in 2012 standings order)

West Hills (25-9) — The Wolf Pack will be one of the county's top hitting ball clubs, but a pair of rising freshmen pitchers will be deeply challenged against a competitive schedule.

Catcher Cortney Horne, the reigning GHL batting champion, saw her verbal commitment to Ohio State erased when officials from the Buckeyes fired the entire coaching staff after the 2012 season — sounds like the school cleaned house to appease NCAA infractions investigators — so Horne will wait for the summer travel ball season to find another college from a long list of interested suitors.

Key Returnees: Cortney Horne (C, Jun.), Arianna Quintanilla (SS, Sen.,), Katie Byrd (INF, Jun.), Kaycee Aquiningoc (OF, Jun.), Melissa Eggleston (OF, Sen.), Kayla Araujo (INF, Sen.).
Top Newcomers: Kelci Ellis (P, Fr.), Miranda (P, Fr.).

Steele Canyon (19-12) — A quartet of Cougars already possess college scholarships, including three at NCAA Division I schools: Tori Yanitor (McNesse St.), Molly Hutchisonn (North Carolina St.), and Grace Kramer (St. John's). That's as good as anyone in North County, which makes the Women of Steele a serious CIF contender.
In the circle, Kramer is the key for the Cougars to repeat. They can match West Hills' bats, but have been a half-beat behind the Pack in team speed and defense in recent seasons.
Key Returnees: Yanitor (OF, Sen.), Hutchison (C, Sen.), Kramer (P, Sen.), Kylie Steagall (3B, Sen.), Rachel Beasley (SS, Sen.), Kali Schwartz (1B, Sen.)

Granite Hills (14-11) — How easily people forget how the Eagles shared the league title with a pair of Top 10 programs in West Hills and Steele Canyon. And with a proven returning pitcher in Kimmy Triolo (Sen., 8-6, 2.43), who has committed to Biola, would it really surprise if Granite Hills repeated? Plus, Triolo (.489) can hit, too. Top Returnees: Victoria Hathaway (Soph., C/1B/3B), .301), Kaila DeWitt (Soph., Util., 1.81), Alissa Budvarson (Sen., OF, .278),Kristina Lahitte (Sen., C, .257).

Grossmont (17-15) — The Foothillers still possess remnants from its 2011 CIF Division I championship ball club, so will rely on that experience to leap back among the league contenders. Top Returnees: Hayley Kasden (2B, Sen., .383), Cel Devila (P/Util., Jr., .347), Amanda Porter (CF, Sen., .339), Sarah Nicks (C, Sen., .304). Kira Elliot (LF, Soph., .278), Katherine Trego (3B, Jun., 260).

Valhalla (17-16) — Norsemen coaches laud P Ashley Madara (Jun., 9-10, 3.30) for keeping the team above water when injuries riddled the roster over the first month of last season. When healthy, the Norsemen beat Steele Canyon to force the Cougars to share the GHL title, then Valhalla downed Eastern runner-up Scripps Ranch in the playoffs, so expectations to contend are real. Top Returnees: Madison Labshere (SS, Sen., .434), Dionna Smith (2B, Sen., .326), Kaylie Hipwell (OF/P, Jun., .337), Danielle Uy (CF, Soph., .476).

Helix (8-21) — The hard-luck Highlanders never gained any momentum in 2012, losing a series of close ballgames before entering their difficult league schedule. This is a team, which needs to start strong. Key Returnees: Chanelle Ward (INF, Sen.), Keana Nakata (P, Sen.), Desirae Bordine (C, Jun.), Sydni Toilolo (INF, Sen.), Marissa Hampton (Util., Jun.).

Grossmont Valley League

El Capitan (23-9) — All the whispers remain the same: Can the Vaqueros keep winning with Delanie Gourley despite an otherwise average ball club? Well, they did last season for the school's first-ever San Diego Section crown. And repeat champions are the norm in the San Diego Section. Key Returnees: Gourley (P, Sen.), Rachel Auchenback (SS, Jun.), Marissa Cuevas (3B, Jun.), Sam Lozano (3B, Soph.), Katie Carmichael (1B, Jun.), RF, Sen.).

Santana (28-8) — Great news: The Sultans field eight returning starters who are all seniors. Better news: A deep bench of underclassmen may see a few out-bid some veterans for berths in the line-up. Plus, the ball club wants to avenge its CIF setback to El Cap. Key Returnees: Kayti Grable (C, Sen.), Amber Schisler (P, Sen.), Ariel Rasmusson (SS, Sen.), Tara Grennan (SS, Sen.), Kendra Kuper (RF, Sen.), Alex Breidt (LF, Sen.), Ahnalin Barkhimer (2B, Sen.), Alicia Zuniga (3B, Sen.).

El Cajon Valley (4-11) — The Braves will be guided by their third coach, in as many years (and fourth in five campaigns). A traditional rational may be the revolving door of students in the apartment-dominated neighborhood, which makes building a program difficult. Key Returnees: Jessica Snow (C, Sen.), Cristina Valenzuela (P, Sen.), Noelle Pontius (SS, Sen.), Pearl Valenzuela (Util., Fr.), Yessica Holunga (2B/OF, m Sen.).

Monte Vista (7-16) — Senior catcher Emma DeMars, the daughter of the head coach, leads a core group of Monarchs, which are in their third (and in some cases, fourth) year together as a unit. Key Returnees: Emma DeMars (SS, Sen.), Chelsea Balajadia (C, Sen.), Sierra Goldhagen (Util., Soph.).

Mount Miguel (4-23) — The youthful Matadors no longer possess major feeder programs, so first-year coach Andre Brown will need to accomplishment team development on his own.Key Returnees: Nicola Bargas (P, Sen.), Marleesa Chavez (3B/OF, Sen.), Priscilla Gomez (OF/2B, Sen.), Yessica Becerra (2B, Sen.), Catherine Quijada (C, Sen.), Angelica Gordon (3B, Sen.), Alexis Gaxiola (OF, Jun.).


Eastern League
Christian (8-21) —

When the small-school division Patriots field a full complement of players, they can compete with the big schools in the deep Eastern League, including a second place finish just three years ago. Defense will be a key factor for new head coach Tracy Preist to address. Key Returnees: Gaby Grabowski (P/2B, So. .352), Melanie Stark (P/2B, Sen., .279). Anaya Toniason (C, Sen., .309), Taylor Miller (1B, Soph.), Kayla Kruel (2B, Soph., .325), Alyssa Harris (SS, Jun., .400),
Top Newcomers: Anna Sherburne (DP, Fr.), Diana Suda (OF, Fr.).

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