Softball season could bring changes in chase for Grossmont Hills and Grossmont Valley league titles

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So many wonderful things fell into place for the Santana High School girls’ softball team last year as the Lady Sultans captured the San Diego Section Division III championship title. But it could be a different result this year. Senior heavy, Grossmont Valley League champion Santana lost most of its roster due to graduation.

The Grossmont Hills League title chase should be just as interesting, with defending league champion West Hills pushed by several teams, the Valhalla Norsemen prime among them.

So many wonderful things fell into place for the Santana High School girls’ softball team last year as the Lady Sultans captured the San Diego Section Division III championship title. But it could be a different result this year. Senior heavy, Grossmont Valley League champion Santana lost most of its roster due to graduation.

The Grossmont Hills League title chase should be just as interesting, with defending league champion West Hills pushed by several teams, the Valhalla Norsemen prime among them.

2014 Softball Preview

Grossmont Valley League

El Capitan Vaqueros

Losing Pitcher of the Year Delanie Gourley definitely has an effect on the Vaquero pitching staff. El Capitan finished last season 11-12 overall and 3-3 in league play despite having to forfeit five games.

Look for the Vaqueros to reestablish a name for themselves. The squad should finish at least .500.

Monte Vista Monarchs

Monte Vista finished last season 5-17-1 overall and 2-3 in league play. Although Santana ran away with the league title, the remaining teams in the league had similar records. Look for Monte Vista to compete in 2014.

El Cajon Valley Braves

The Braves got pounded by league leading Santana in the last game of last season by a score of 27-2. The Braves are like the school’s varsity baseball team — in a rebuilding process. 

It was a long season in 2013 as the Braves struggled to put points on the board and also a struggle to get out of long innings. This year’s ECVHS squad has its work cut out.

Santana Sultans

The Sultans have four seniors returning from year’s CIF championship team. Last year the club swept the division and went 24-9 overall, with coach John Failla earning Coach of the Year honors for 2013.

Despite the loss to so much talent to graduation, this younger Lady Sultans squad Failla should be able to compete. Senior catcher Kayti Grable batted .591 last year with 19 doubles and seven home runs. Santana should be very solid offensively, but may not win the league title this year.

Grossmont Hills League

West Hills Wolf Pack

West Hills won the league title last season by having a slightly better record than Steele Canyon and Valhalla. West Hills finished the 2013 season 18-13 overall and 8-2 in league play. The Wolf Pack lost in Division 2 finals to San Marcos 3-2. 

Key returning players include senior catcher Cortney Horne, who batted .469 with five home runs and 37 RBI, while senior Brandi McCrystal batted .342 with five doubles. Braced by sophomore pitcher Kelci Ellis-Alvarez, West Hills will be looking to claim yet another league title.

Steele Canyon Cougars:

The Cougars posted a great season in 2013 with a 20-13 overall record, 7-3 league finish, and 2-0 loss to Rancho Bernardo in the CIF semifinals. However, losing five seniors to graduation could sting this club both offensively and defensively. 

It’s hard to gauge this 2014 Steele Canyon team, as it will lack the once experienced firepower.

Mt. Miguel Matadors

The Matadors finished 1-7 in Grossmont Valley League play last season, 6-19 overall. Dejaney Pope batted .455 with four doubles and 10 RBI in 17 games as a junior.

For the Matadors to compete for the league title this spring, they will have to lower last season’s 12.27 team ERA and replace four seniors who hit .265 or better.

Valhalla Norsemen

The 2013 campaign proved to be somewhat successful after finishing 18-12 overall and 7-3 in league play. The Norsemen lost 3-1 in the first round of the Division II playoffs to Mount Carmel. The Norsemen wiil look to build on that early playoff exit and could   have a shot at the league title and are definitely still equipped for playoff potential.

Returning key players include junior Kaylie Hipwell, who batted .382 and hit seven doubles, and senior standout Emily Ordonez, hwo should shine as well after batting .302 last year. The arm of senior Ashley Madera (9-10-1, with a 3.30 ERA and 73 strikeouts) should be considered as part of the equation as well.

Grossmont Foothillers

Hillers have always had phenomenal athletic programs. But this squad has work to do this season. The Lady Hillers finished 2013 with a 12-15 overall record, 4-6 in league play. Grossmont finished the season with a loss in the first round of the Division I playoffs to Mission Hills 4-1. Look for the Hillers to put last season behind them and refocus on turning 2014 into a positive one.

Granite Hills Eagles

The Eagles missed the 2013 playoffs after a lackluster season (12-13  overall and 3-7 in league play. Key returners include sophomore first baseman Victoria Hathaway, who batted .301 with 22 runs batted in, and sophomore pitcher Kaila DeWitt, who finished her first year in 2013 with a 2-1 record and 1.81 ERA. With some added young talent, the Eagles should fly higher up in the ranks in 2014.

Helix Highlanders

The Highlanders had a tough year in 2013 after going 1-9 in league play and 9-19 overall. However, Helix did have quite a lot of talent considering its record. Sophomore Destini Bullock had a great first year playing varsity, batting .424 with 21 RBI.

Also returning are senior first baseman-cather Desirae Bordine, who batted .339 and powered four dingers out of the yard, and senior pitchers Marrissa Hampton (3-3-1 record) and Keana Nakata (4-11-1 with 48 strikeouts). At this point, the only direction the Highlanders can go is up.

Private schools

Christian Patriots

The Lady Patriots had a tough year last season after finishing 2-8 in league play and 6-17 overall — just missing finishing in the cellar to the Morse Tigers, who were winless in 2013. The error-prone Patriots had a tough 2013 season and can only improve this season.

Left fielder-centerfielder Taylor Miller returns as a junior. She adds plenty of speed on the base paths after leading the league in 2013 with five stolen bases, and should increase that total this season. Other key returning offensive threats include Alyssa Harris, who batted .491 and Jennyh Esquivel, who batted .470 in 2013 and also went yard four times. The Patriots should put plenty of points on the board this year, which will lead to more wins this season. 

Pitching-wise, junior Joanna Gaby Grabowski was a bright spot in the pitching department last year and should only get better. She only pitched nine innings and posted eight strikeouts with a 4.67 earned run average. Look for Christian to reach .500 in 2014.

Foothills Christian Knights

The Lady Knights had a subpar 2013, but look to compete in a tough conference full of talent. With most of the roster returning for 2014, minus last year’s captain, Ashlyn Lettow, the Knights will definitely be competing for the league title. 

Leading the way on offense is senior shortstop Annie Atterbury. She batted .533 with a pair of doubles and one long ball last year. Another key offensive contributor will be infielder Carlee Bergschneider after batting an impressive .571 in 2013. 

The Knights need to improve their pitching, hold their opponents to low scoring affairs, and let the bats heat up to take care of business offensively with timely hitting. This is the formula for the team’s success in 2014.

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