East County High School’s 2015 softball preview

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Light-hearted chants rarely heard from the boys ring in from the dugout as girls across East County dig into the batters’ box. Softball season has arrived, and though the sport often lives in the shadow of baseball, girls are looking to change that in 2015 with their energetic play.

Grossmont Hills League

Light-hearted chants rarely heard from the boys ring in from the dugout as girls across East County dig into the batters’ box. Softball season has arrived, and though the sport often lives in the shadow of baseball, girls are looking to change that in 2015 with their energetic play.

Grossmont Hills League

In 2014, West Hills finished league play with a perfect 9-0 record (15-5-1 overall) and are the prohibitive favorites to reclaim the championship. Head coach Mike Applebaum’s squad returns three .400 hitters (min. 40 AB) in junior Sydney Craven (.418 with 4 home runs), sophomore Alex Guay (.424, 3 HR) and junior Paige Bowler (.488). Opponents will struggle to force a shootout, however, as the Wolf Pack also have two pitchers that posted sub-2.00 ERAs. Junior Kelsi Ellis-Alvarez and senior Tess Eaton.

Valhalla took second place with its 6-3 conference record (20-13 overall) and took home the CIF San Diego Section Division II runner up trophy last season. Though last year’s star, Carlee Wallace, is now starting in college for the fourth-ranked Auburn Tigers, fourth-year head coach Mark Obney’s squad will challenge West Hills for the league crown behind seven veteran starters. Runs should not be difficult to come by with three-time all-league senior outfielder Danielle Uy, who hit .442 with four home runs in 2014, anchoring the lineup. Valhalla, however, will rely heavily on freshman Lily Metsch’s arm after losing all three pitchers from last year’s staff.

Steele Canyon finished fourth after its 8-15-1 (3-6 league) campaign. Head coach Julie Bohe will look to turn around the Cougars behind the arms of Kendra Buckley and Makayla McCarthy.

After last May’s wildfires resulted in several cancellations throughout the county, 7-1 El Capitan (9-15 overall) and 6-1 Santana (13-10 overall) were named co-champions of the Grossmont Valley League. Both schools will look to translate their success as they move to the Hills League in 2015.

El Capitan coach Joe Cota will have his hands full with a young, albeit talented, team this season. Just five upperclassmen are listed on the team’s 15-player roster, though senior pitcher/outfielder Courtney Williams hit .347 and notched a 3.57 ERA last season. Sophomore Amanda Vasquez, however, could challenge Williams for the top spot in the rotation despite pitching just 19 innings as a freshman. In her limited outings, she struck out 17 and only walked three batters en route to a 1.84 ERA. Fellow freshman Grace Burkett also showed promise last season by hitting .360 with five steals.

Santana coach John Failla’s keystone combination will feature two Sydney’s. Junior Sydney Vates at shortstop and sophomore Sydney Benjamin at second base. Both Sydneys eclipsed the .400 mark last season, with Benjamin hitting an astounding .476 and Vates hitting .441 with a pair of home runs.

Grossmont Valley League

In 2015, the Grossmont Valley League will welcome a trio of transfers from the Hills League—Granite Hills, Grossmont and Helix.

Granite Hills finished 6-3 (12-14 overall) in the Hills League last season, but were bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Sophomore shortstop Halle Kyler, who is also listed as a pitcher, hit .434 with 10 stolen bases, 15 RBI and 11 doubles last year. Veteran coach Erin Coyne will pair Kyler with seniors Victoria Hathaway and Kaila DeWitt. Hathaway plays third base and hit .434 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI and DeWitt, who like Kyler is listed as both a pitcher and a shortstop, hit .375 in league play.

Emily Kowalski’s Helix squad finished last in the Hills League with a 1-8 record (7-17-1 overall). Junior Destini Bullock will try to build off of her four home runs and astounding .532 batting average, though she will also have to lead an inexperienced team. Senior Clarissa Smith is the only other Highlander to have logged more than 50 at-bats, though she did hit a respectable .339. Helix will need its young players, like freshman Mckenzie Flores, to pick up the slack in order to compete for a league title.

Monte Vista’s 3-4 Valley League record (12-13 overall) was good enough for third place last season. The Monarchs hope to improve on that record but they have just three seniors on their roster.

Fourth-place Mount Miguel (2-5 league, 4-14 overall), Grossmont (2-7 Hills, 7-19 overall) and El Cajon Valley (0-7 Valley, 1-20 overall) will also be looking to rebound in 2015.

 East County Private Schools

Christian High School ended last season tied with Morse at the bottom of the Eastern League standings and will look to improve upon their 1-18 (1-9 league) record.

Foothills Christian finished second in the Citrus-West League in 2014 behind a 7-3 (12-7 overall) record and advanced to the D-V semifinal. Second-year coach Virgel Groll and the Knights will move to the Pacific League in 2015 and are in good shape for another playoff run. Junior pitcher Hannah Groll, Virgel’s daughter, was first-team all-league and struck out 120 batters in just 90 innings. She should receive plenty of run support from a lineup that features senior Annie Johnson (.386, 28 runs, 18 stolen bases), sophomore Haylee Hittle (.433, 32 runs, 17 stolen bases) and sophomore Devrie Mostrong (.515, 6 triples, 2 home runs, .909 slugging percentage.)

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