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Softball starts season with a bang

Sophomore Candice Nunez guards third base during the alumnae game Saturday at Wheeler Park. The Leopards won, 12-1. The Leopards have started their season with a record of 3-0. / photo by Cassandra Egan

Christian Orozco
Sports Editor

After an impressive 2011 season, the softball team looks to take it all this year.

The Leopards finished with a 26-16 overall record and an 18-6 Southern California Intercolleg­iate Conference record in 2011, good for third place.

“We want to win the conference tournament, win regionals, be in the top eight in the nation and ultimately win the (College) World Series.” head coach Julie Smith said. “If we take it one game at a time and one pitch at a time and set tangible goals, anything is possible.”

Smith is entering her fifth season as the Leopards head coach and she has high expectations for her team this season.

The Leopards lost two All-SCIAC team members from last year – Ashley Paul and Delaney Baylor – but you wouldn’t know it if you spoke with the team.

“I don’t really believe the loss affected us at all,” senior outfielder Dee Dee Burns said.

Smith also looks to senior infielder Tara Allis and senior catcher Daryn Schiveley to also lead this young team.

“We have voices in the outfield, infield and at catcher. You couldn’t really ask for anything better than that,” Smith said. “They’re leaders on and off the field.”

One of the voices is Burns, who led the Leopards in runs last year with 36.

“We’re not as big as last year, but there is definitely a lot more intensity on this team,” Burns said.

“We’re a lot younger but we’re more on the same page this year,” Allis said.

The Leopards added two freshmen pitchers who have already proven that they are ready to step up.

Freshmen Rebecca Ho and Breeanna De La Rosa have strengthened the Leopards pitching rotation.

“We know the ropes and we lead them by example,” Allis said.

“We have a lot of team meetings and there’s a lot more trust between all of us,” Schiveley said.

The Leopards are also expecting some key returners to make a huge impact.

“A lot of the freshmen from last year now see how far this team can actually go,” Smith said. “And now they’re letting this year’s freshmen know that these goals are tangible.”

Sophomore first basemen Raven Freret, who led the team in home runs last season with seven, and sophomore Jackie Duran are two of the four returning All-SCIAC team members, along with Burns and Allis.

The Leopards are prepared for their SCIAC opener and won both of their matches in their season opening doubleheader against La Sierra, 5-2 and 13-0, on Jan. 31.

“Any losses that we have had in the past, we beat ourselves,” Smith said. “I believe no one has actually beaten us.”

The Leopards will play the Whittier Poets on Saturday in Whittier.

Christian Orozco can be reached at christian.orozco@laverne.edu.

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