Senior third baseman Brianna Simpson, an all-league honorable mention selection, will provide leadership at the hot corner. Freedom will take advantage of two more years of Madison Williams, who will throw to talented catcher Iniki Kaleialii, also a junior. Senior outfielder Kathy Cook will also play a vital role.
Lisa Rodrigues emerged as one of the BVAL’s best pitchers last season and the New Mexico-bound senior hopes to improve on last year. Head coach Ron Rivers feels confident in his offense as well, led by junior catcher Malia Rivers, who has rapped out a hit in eight of her first 11 at-bats. Junior infielder Ali Ramirez, fresh from the basketball team, should provide some pop.
Rivers likes the potential from the newcomers, such as junior centerfielder Desinee Williams, a Pittsburg transfer, as well as freshmen Madison Gonsalez (right field) and Kim Trice (first base).
The Panthers enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory last year, but this could be more of a growing year for Antioch. Led by new head coach John Rebstock (last year’s head coach, Brook Russo, made the jump to Freedom), the future looks bright for a young Panthers team.
“We’re pretty young and inexperienced,” Rebstock said. “I think it’s going to be a real chore for us to beat Freedom or Heritage, but we should have a shot against the other three teams.”
Sophomore Shelbi Graifman will replace all-league pitcher Paris Imholz in the circle. Natalie Larson and Sierra Whitesell, who played basketball for Antioch over the winter, show potential. Offensively, the Panthers will look to senior infielder Nicollete Redfearn to get things started.
The Wolverines lost several athletes to graduation last season, but those who are returning inspire optimism for this year.
Junior first baseman Maleia Namauleg has started off the year swinging a hot bat – hitting .520 in her first seven games. Seniors Davianna Burney (outfielder) and Brooke Shipman (catcher) should provide crucial leadership as team captains. Deer Valley also returns junior infielder Alyssa Slate, an all-BVAL honorable mention last season.
Freshman Rachel Jones and senior Paige Chalifoux, also a team captain, have split time in the circle.
Third-year head coach Warren Nelson believes his young Pirates squad could become one of the better BVAL teams – if not this season, then next.
Pittsburg fields talented athletes in junior center fielder Lanae Rivers, junior third baseman Sandra Tadilla, sophomore shortstop Sabryna Cruz and junior catcher Selena Townsend. The Pirates will also rely on a transfer from Freedom, junior pitcher Maliyah Stamps, and sophomore second baseman Katarina Tekari.
“We’re young,” Nelson said. “But we’re a very competitive team.”
First-year head coach Stacie Del Chiaro takes over a Liberty team focused on improvement. The Lions won just one league game last season – over Pittsburg – a record they hope to change. Liberty will rely on the talents of athletes such as juniors Olive Paredes and Jocelyn Rector, both second-team all-league selections last season.
Liberty opens BVAL play April 17 at Deer Valley.