2018 East County Prep Softball Storylines

Santana junior MADISON MENDEZ / photo by Tammy Ryan - TRYAN PHOTOGRAPHY

2018 EAST COUNTY PREP SOFTBALL

By Adam Paul

EastCountySports.com

 

STORYLINES

This season in the East County will be very interesting as there are quite a few storylines for the upcoming season from a new coach to graduating players to different divisions to moving leagues etc.

With everything being taken into consideration these are the storylines for the upcoming season in the East County.

 

EAGLES FOUR-PEAT?

The Granite Hills Eagles come into the season looking to win their fourth league title in a row dating back to 2014 when they were in the Valley side of the Grossmont League. The last couple of years in the Hills side they have won the last two going a combined 16-4. Granite will be the favorites again as they have the duo of junior Catie Dobbs and sophomore Staci Chambers in the circle. They were both solid last season as part of the trio which included Halle Kyler who graduated. Other players include Bailey Wallace and Haley Johnson who will help anchor the offense and also the defense.

Besides going for a four-peat the Eagles will look to again contend in either the CIF Open Division or be one of the top seeds in Division I. Last season the Eagles came within an eyelash of going to the Open Championship as they lost a heartbreaker to Ramona in the Semis.

LEAGUE REALIGNMENT

This season the Valley League will have the six teams as Valhalla who was in the Hills League over the previous couple of seasons is switching to the Valley side of the league. The Norsemen will look to compete against the likes of Helix, El Capitan, Mount Miguel, Monte Vista and El Cajon Valley.

VALLEY LEAGUE BATTLE

The last couple of seasons the battle for the league crown has come down to the final game between both the El Capitan Vaqueros and the Helix Highlanders. Both times the teams have been one game separated and both times the team that was behind in the standings has won and at the end of the regular season CO-Champions. Both squads return quite a few players and also graduated some so once again it will be exciting as either El Capitan or Helix goes for a three-peat. Also will a new team such as Valhalla finally step up and insert themselves into the championship picture?

REPEAT CIF CHAMPIONS AND DIVISIONAL MOVEMENT

Last season the Santana Sultans, Christian Patriots and Mount Miguel Matadors won their respective Division for CIF. The Sultans claimed the Division II crown, Christian Division III and Mount Miguel in Division V.

This season the Sultans remain in Division II while the Patriots move up to Division II and the Matadors move up to Division IV. Looking at the Divisional breakdown both the Sultans and Patriots will be two of the top contenders in Division II. The Sultans despite graduating three players off last year’s squad return their other key players and will return All-CIF pitcher Madison Mendez who won over 20 games, All-CIF Catcher Mackenzie Bennett who had hit over .500 among other returnees.

The Patriots return their whole team except one senior who graduated. They return All-CIF shortstop Silent Rain Espinoza who had a record-breaking season last year in hits among other things, Ashley Carter who did wonders in the circle, Shannon McMahon who drove in a lot of runs and was solid in the lineup among others returnees.

Mount Miguel graduated one of their better players in Neddy Berrios but return the majority of their squad including Stephanie Herrera.

Divisional movement wise besides Christian and Mount Miguel included Steele Canyon who were the Division II runner-ups to Santana. This season the Cougars were moved into Division I as well as the Grossmont Foothillers who last year were placed in Division II after being moved up from Division III where they won the CIF title a couple of years ago.

 NEW COACH AND NEW STADIUM

This season at Patrick Henry a new coach takes over in Forrest Levinson. Coach Levinson takes over for the retired veteran Steve Miner who had guided the Patriots to back to back Division I runner-ups. Coach Levinson isn’t new to the program as he was an assistant as well as a JV coach. He takes over a program that graduated Madison James one of the top pitchers in the county, Cristiona Caccamise who was an ALL CIF Catcher, Hannah McEwen an ALL CIF selection and Cassie Van Til. However the rest of the team returns including Andrea Wright who was sharp at third and also at the plate.

Also this season the Patriots will be road warriors as they will be playing on the road as a new softball field is being built at the school which will be completed sometime by the end of the season from what was said.

HILLS LEAGUE TOUGHNESS

When it comes to strength of leagues in San Diego County the Hills League is right up there with their. There are no easy wins for any team in the league and any team can win it and also end up at the bottom. Because of how tough the league is each team is prepared for the playoffs as they will have been battle tested.

REBOUNDING

Despite having a losing record last season and also graduating five seniors off of last year’s squad the West Hills Wolf Pack will look to get back to their winning ways. Even though the Wolf Pack had a losing record they made it all the way to the Semi-Finals where they gave eventual Division I Champion Carlsbad a run for their money and actually came within an eyelash of winning the game. Last season also included a 5-3 victory over Santana in the Mayors Cup game.

This season returning for the Pack are nine players who have Varsity experience under their belts. This will bode well for them as they add players who move up to Varsity and look to contend for a league crown and move further in the playoffs. With the expertise of veteran coach Mike Applebaum the Wolf Pack aren’t to be taken lightly in 2018.

 

 

 

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