This year's Deer Valley softball has burst out of the box, getting off to a blazing-hot 5-0 start and a 4-0 start to Bay Valley Athletic League play. After taking Freedom right down to the wire for a league title a year ago, this year's team, with a healthy influx of young talent and youthful enthusiasm joining a proven core of veteran upperclassmen, has its sights set on dethroning the reigning champs.
What puts us and Freedom above the rest of the competition is that we have a great, solid core of seniors Therese Gascon-Minton, Jessica Pader, Rachael Martinez, Chelsea Brandt and that's helping the freshmen along, said head coach Amy Tillson. We're one cohesive unit, and that's what's going to help us go far.
What makes the Lady Wolverines' hot start even more impressive is that two of the team's top players, junior pitcher Emily Allard one of the most dominating hurlers in the BVAL and star senior utility player Shenise Cox, are still making the adjustment after joining the team late, following their strong playoff run with the varsity basketball team.
Especially with a young group, it just builds their confidence, Tillson said of her team's fast start despite limited early contributions from two of her most lauded players. The freshmen are hard workers, and it's a whole different mentality now that (Allard and Cox) are there. Now that they're here, the team is playing at a whole other level.
Allard is still removing some rust from her game after taking time off to recover from a sprained pitching wrist, but Tillson knows that her ace pitcher won't take long to return to top form. And Cox, who got off to a slow start with the bat, has raised her average to .308 and is playing the game more relaxed than she did a year ago, which Tillson attributes to the peace of mind that came from signing her letter of intent to play at the University of New Mexico next year.
The team has also gotten a big boost from a pair of its freshmen, as pitcher/third baseman Taylor Newhouse and outfielder Staci Howard have stepped in and made immediate contributions.
Tillson raves about Newhouse's versatility, providing the team with a solid pitcher to back-up and complement Allard, and a capable third baseman along with her considerable skill with the bat. The coach is also impressed with Howard, who has already distinguished herself as top-notch defensive outfielder, thanks to her good reads on fly balls and her powerful throwing arm. She's also currently carrying a .556 batting average and doing an excellent job advancing runners with clutch situational hitting.
The Lady Wolverines are playing in the Livermore Stampede tournament this weekend, and return to BVAL play on Tuesday, April 1, when they travel to Clayton Valley to take on the 2-3 Eagles at 4 p.m.