Tag Archive | "Softball"

Lady Highlanders react to resignation, LHHS looks for new coach

Tags: , , , , ,

Lady Highlanders react to resignation, LHHS looks for new coach

Posted on 30 June 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

La Habra High School Softball Coach Steve Harrington stepped down shortly after the season despite an immensely successful two-year run at the helm.

Photo courtesy Miguel Pola –  All about coaching: Steve Harrington resigned late last month as head softball coach at La Habra after leading the Lady Highlanders to a 21-8, 9-1 season and helped them move to Division 1 in CIF.

Despites only being at La Habra for less than two seasons, Harrington developed a bond with his team that has arguable impacted each of them.
So much so, that upon hearing of his decision to step down, a large group of team members and parents demanded a meeting with school administration to plead for Harrington to remain with the school.
Eleven varsity softball players, along with parents, La Habra High School Principal Karl Zener and Athletic Director Frank McCarroll held a meeting with last month to fight for Harrington.
According to former Lady Highlander and assistant coach Regina Andrade, who was present at the meeting, the players, parents and Andrade`each voiced their support of Harrington for helping to better the team and the program as a whole.
All 11 girls showed up with heartfelt letters in-hand, explaining how Harrington had, and continues to impact their lives both on and off the field.
The meeting concluded with the administration stating that it was out of the their hands because Harrington had resigned earlier in the week.
After the meeting, the group of players and parents went to the district office to fight for Harrington. According to multiple sources, the only solution provided was to have Harrington re-apply for the position.
McCarroll could not comment on the personnel situation.
“We wish Coach Harrington the best and thank him for the past two years,” Zener said.
Harrington was able to help lead the Lady Highlanders to remarkable on-the-field success in his short time with the team.
A little more than a month after arriving, Harrington lead the team on an unprecedented 27-game winning streak, which only came to an end during the 2016 CIF semifinals.
After the team’s success in his first season the Lady Highlanders became the first team in any sport in the history of the school to be moved up and compete in CIF Division 1.
Many parents and players reacted to the promotion with some fear that the 2017 season would be difficult.
Harrington though, didn’t sweat it. Instead he reacted by working to inspire the team to believe they absolutely belonged at the top. And convinced the team that they would not only compete in Division 1, but beat a lot of the top team’s in the division.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Lady Highlanders finished the 2017 season with an impressive 21-8, 9-1 record, and along the way beat some of the top ranked teams in the nation.
The Lady Highlanders were actually ranked in the top-10 in the nation back in March, after defeating Orange Lutheran and the No. 1-ranked team in the Nation Los Alamitos in back-to-back games during the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead, Arizona.
Few people know what Harrington has done, and continues, to do behind the scenes for his girls.
His reputation for being a hard-nosed coach is earned. According to him, he makes his players put in the work and hold them accountable.
He explains that it comes from a place of wanting to help his players become the best they can be.
The touching letters penned by some of his players to the school paint a picture of what is underneath that tough exterior.
They tell a story of a coach, a mentor and for some, even a father figure who went out of his way to make sure all of his players were able to compete at the highest level on the field, and be the best version of themselves off of it as well.
“Steve has impacted my life in many ways,” catcher Alyssa Rios said. “He brought my confidence up when nobody believed in me, not even myself and turned me into a catcher I never thought I could be.”
“Steve showed me the more detailed parts of the game,” first baseman Alyssa Palacios said. “He’s also showed me how far confidence can get you and he’s just made me see the game in a different aspect that makes the game quicker and more fun, he’s an awesome coach and an awesome person in general.”
“Coach Steve really cared about me and always had my back,” shortstop Savannah Tourville said. “Not only is coach Steve coaching us but he really cares about each player and wants us to get to the next level and help us in the future after college.”
Harrington’s impact was also felt off the field for many of the girls. Perhaps none more so than Rios.
“He also helped me through my depression,” Rios said. “My dad had passed away about 11 months ago and he was there for me, pushing me to be a better person and I thank him for that everyday.”
“He’s given me opportunities of a lifetime with college,” she continued. “He’s overall an amazing person and a father figure in my eyes.”

Many of the players echoed sentiments about Harrington’s generosity, pointing out how he bought the team matching cleats at the beginning of the season and helped pay for some players to travel out of state for the Tournament of Champions.
“He always told us that money was not an issue,” Tourville said. “He helped out with free lessons and paid for many other things, even simple things like buying the team breakfast and giving us that time to bond.”
Palacios explained that he would help out the girls who couldn’t afford the Laughlin trip or the banquet, and that there would be a way for them to go.
Harrington still helps the girls when he can. He’ll attend travel pall games and provide a free lesson here and there. He’s also working his connections in the softball world to help set up college scouting visits for the girls still without scholarship offers.
“He’s contacted a few schools for me and one of them really likes me,” Rios said.
“He’s helped me after the season to prepare me for college,” Palacios said.
In his two seasons, Harrington helped the La Habra softball program grow and develop into one of the top programs, and he is ready for his next opportunity.
La Habra is currently accepting applications for the coaching position and hopes to have someone in place by the start of the school year.

Comments Off on Lady Highlanders react to resignation, LHHS looks for new coach

Lady Highlanders look for redemption

Tags: , , ,

Lady Highlanders look for redemption

Posted on 10 March 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Unfinished business. That’s exactly what the Lady Highlanders softball team has collectively had on their minds since a crushing loss in the 2016 CIF semifinals derailed La Habra’s championship bid and snapped their school record 26-game winning streak.

Photo courtesy Paula Luna
Ready for the season: The Lady Highlander softball team looks to continue where they finished last year by recapturing the league title and competing for a CIF title. With a number of seniors and returning players, La Habra looks to improve on its 29-2 record from last year.

Despite ending on a sour note, the Lady Highlanders finished with a 29-2 record and have plenty to be optimistic about in 2017. The girls finished a perfect 10-0 in league and will be returning all but three starting position players.
First and foremost, they return a pair of aces in the circle. Seniors Hannah Johnson and Janelle Rodriguez might be the best pitching tandem in the county. Both girls are coming off back-to-back dominant seasons. According to head coach Steve Harrington, Rodriguez is back at full strength after suffering through a shoulder injury late last season.
La Habra will also have All-CIF outfielder Kira Cauley back to spark the offense again. Cauley is a legitimate five-tool talent. In addition, seniors Billie Jean Wells, Alyssa Palacios and Alyssa Rios are all returning starters and major contributors from last season.
La Habra will have some big shoes to fill at a couple key positions though.
Shortstop Frankie Mendoza and catcher Nikki Butler both moved on to play collegiately. Last year’s captains were heart of the order batters and equally valuable on the defensive end. That said, replacing their leadership could prove to be the most difficult hurdle this year.
Although the Lady Highlanders lost a few key starters from a year ago, they are still far and away the favorite to win another Freeway League title.

Photo courtesy Paula Luna Sparking the offense: All-CIF Outfielder Kira Cauley is one of the many seniors that look to help lead the Lady Highlanders this season. La Habra is looking to recapture the league title and run for CIF title.

Sonora (13-11, 6-4) finished in second, while Sunny Hills (16-10, 5-5) and Fullerton (18-12, 5-5) were right behind.
The Raiders are lead by senior captain Claudia Kim, who pitches and plays middle-infield for Sonora.
Harrington is excited about having a lot of returning players and believes a couple girls stepping up from the junior varsity team, as well as a couple freshman will make significant contributions right away.
“A beautiful surprise this year, has been Alexis Riley,” Harrington said.
Riley is a senior, but played junior varsity last season. Harrington admitted her talent has always been there, but praised her on her maturity during the offseason.
La Habra’s success during Harrington’s first season at the helm didn’t go unnoticed. The Lady Highlanders were bumped up to a Division 1 team this year for the first time in school history.
“I don’t care what division we’re in, I’ve been in that division,” Harrington said. “I’ve been down that road many times, heck last year’s team beat the Division 1 champion.”
Harrington added a gauntlet of tough out of league games to the schedule this year to better prepare the girls for the rigors of CIF. After getting his first full offseason with his team, Harrington believes they have what it takes to beat anybody regardless of division.
“This is a tight knit group,” he concluded, “and in my experience, the tighter the group the better the team.

Comments Off on Lady Highlanders look for redemption

Nikki Butler: Lady Highlanders indisputable leader

Tags: , , , ,

Nikki Butler: Lady Highlanders indisputable leader

Posted on 06 May 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

After the Lady Highlanders’ extra innings win at Sunny Hills two weeks ago, the team had all left to board the bus, but one player stayed behind gathering her gear and cleaning up the visiting dugout.

La Habra High School Catcher Nikki Butler.

La Habra High School Catcher Nikki Butler is a leader on and off the field for the Lady Highlanders. .

As she lugged her catcher’s gear into the bag, then threw it over her shoulder, Nikki Butler—who just moments prior hit the game winning home run—turned to walk away when her coach called out “oh that’s mama bear… if the girls need anything, she’s always got it.”
That moment captured the essence of what Butler means to the La Habra softball team.
Introducing her with the standard athlete denotation—you know, the team, position and name, followed by some recycled superlatives—wouldn’t properly capture her impact on the Lady Highlanders. Sure, she is all of the above. But Butler is more than just La Habra’s catcher. She is the team’s quintessential leader off the field and a maestro behind the plate.
So what’s a leader off the field look like?
Before the coaches arrive for a Monday practice, Butler takes the junior varsity team and runs them through the drills they will be doing for the day. Next, she rounds up the Lady Highlanders varsity squad for a team jog around the track. By the time the coaches arrive, both teams are already off and running into their respective drills.
On the field, Butler handles a talented group of pitchers and anchors a solid defense.
Butler calls pitches and directs the defense like a conductor would an orchestra. To truly appreciate Butler’s mastery behind the plate, you must first understand her trailblazing coach.
All coaches draw up gameplans, but Steve Harrington elevates it to an artform, orchestrating strategies like a composer. For over two decades, Harrington’s inimitable system and coaching style demanded that he called all in-game strategies from the dugout.
Astonishingly, Butler began picking up Harrington’s system within the first couple months, prompting him to do things a little differently.

Lady Highlander's Nikki Butler helps coach the La Habra JV team before their practice.

Lady Highlander’s Nikki Butler helps coach the La Habra JV team before their practice.

You see, Butler became a student of the game at a young age thanks to her dad Craig, who also played the position. She has been working on her skills behind the plate for 13 years with him.
“My dad always taught me to just go with the flow, and I really liked it,” she said about playing catcher. “My dad has taught me everything I know, I have never been to a catching coach.”
She said that her travel-ball coaches and now Harrington have helped put the finishing touches on her game.
Though Butler and Harrington have a symbiotic relationship now, the two had their differences early on.
Harrington was impressed with Butler’s confidence and knowledge of the game from day-one, but those same attributes,which he loved, made it difficult for her to fully embrace his system.
“Nikki is a very confident girl and she really has a wealth of experience,” Harrington said. “She sees the game pretty well and she is coming off doing it the way it’s been done the past three years, but that system doesn’t work for me.”
The chasm came to a head rather quickly.
“So I’m sitting here implementing my system—which I know works—and she [was] trying to integrate some components from the other system, and that is when we butted heads,” Harrington explained. “I flat out told her, ‘A, you can figure out how to run my system and forget about that other one; or B, you can get out of here and play travel ball.’”Butler
Many players in her shoes, who have had lots of success and received scholarship offers, would have looked at Harrington sideways, holding the mindset of, what can he possibly teach me, I already know how to play the game.
Butler took the ultimatum like a challenge. Deep down she knew that it was an opportunity to take her game to the next level. So Butler quickly became a pupil of Harrington’s system.
“She started asking a lot of questions,” Harrington said. “Then one day at practice I noticed she was taking notes on her cellphone.”
Harrington said there are still times when she will ask him what to do in certain situations, but for the most part Butler now orchestrates the games autonomously behind the plate.
“Sometimes he can just give me a look in certain situations during a game and I know that we are thinking the same thing,” Butler said.
Butler said that learning from Harrington the past few months has elevated her game and better prepared her for the collegiate level.
“It definitely gets complicated, as a hitter against him and as a player for him, you don’t know what he is going to come with, so you just have to have an open mind,” Butler said.
Butler’s aptitude on the diamond turned out to be a perfect union with Harrington’s complex system.
“He [Harrington] always comes to games prepared with a plan of what he is going to do when we play a specific team or coach,” Butler said. “He is definitely different when it comes to shifting the defense, you can never fall back on your heels in any game, but I feel like with him, you wouldn’t ever come close to it because you really don’t know what he is going to come at you with.”
Immediately after the Lady Highlanders beat Mater Dei to win the Woodbridge Tournament, Harrington felt Butler had figured it out and commented on how impressed he was with her ability to handle the game from behind the plate.
The Lady Highlanders have two of the top pitchers in Orange County in Janelle Rodriguez and Hannah Johnson. Their success rides on Butler’s ability to call the right pitches in the right situations and keep them locked into the game.
Rodriguez said that Butler’s confidence behind the plate and her initiative to take control of a game is what sets her apart.
“Sometimes I don’t even know what she is going to call, because she likes to mix it up and doesn’t want to throw the same pitch every single time, she wants to understand the batter,” Rodriguez said. “We will talk between innings and figure out how we want to pitch certain batters.”
Rodriguez also feels Butler’s ability to put the game in perspective has helped her a lot, especially when she gets in tough situations.
“I just remember her telling me one time, ‘it’s just for the fun of it and not a yes we are going to college for it, but… just have fun with it,’’ Rodriguez said. “She is really loud behind the plate and that’s what I like, in between pitches we’ll say ‘ok we got this’ and we know our game plan.”
Besides implementing the game plan and getting the most out of La Habra’s talented pitching staff, Butler also plays the position extremely well.
Baserunners haven’t stood a chance trying to run on her. On the season, Butler has only allowed one stolen base.
“Some teams don’t even try [to steal],” said Richard Flores, La Habra assistant coach. “And if they do, they get thrown out, she really takes that avenue away.”
Flores, who has been coaching at La Habra with Butler all four years, wasn’t surprised by how well Butler picked up her new coach’s system.
“Nikki grew up playing catcher, she studied the game and absorbed it” Flores said. “She really is the maestro of the defense.”
In addition to her defensive mastery, Butler also plays a pivotal role for the Lady Highlanders offense. She is one of the team’s top run producers, batting in the middle of the lineup.
Opposing teams have taken notice of Butler’s prowess with the bat as well. In critical situations she has been pitched around and intentionally walked.
Sunny Hills tried to do so a couple weeks ago, but that didn’t deter Butler from seizing the moment. Instead of standing there with the bat on her shoulder waiting to be walked, Butler stepped into one of the pitchouts and launched a home run over the center field fence, lifting the Highlanders to an extra innings win.
Her ability to lead the team and orchestrate the new system has helped the team put together a record season thus far. The Lady Highlanders are 22-1 overall, 6-0 in league and have now won 19 straight games.
Butler feels the Lady Highlanders transformation this season is a reflection of Harrington’s approach, which has been an equal mixture of discipline, gameplan and preparation.
Butler said that the team’s goal at this point is to finish out league strong and then focus on winning a CIF Championship.
She and Harrington are both confident that the Lady Highlanders have the talent and tools to do it this season, but know they have a lot of work to do before that happens.
In April, Butler officially signed her letter of intent to play softball at New Mexico State University. She said the overwhelming support from the community in New Mexico was strikingly similar to La Habra, which made choosing the Land of Enchantment a surprisingly easy decision.
“It was kind of a love at first sight thing, it totally shocked me how much I liked [New Mexico State],” Butler said. “The coaches, the girls and everything is so family oriented, going out there would be like my home away from home.”
Butler said she is looking forward to playing for the Aggies and studying criminal justice.
For now, Butler will continue to focus on helping the Lady Highlanders continue on one of their best  seasons ever.

Comments Off on Nikki Butler: Lady Highlanders indisputable leader

Lady Highlanders crowned champs over Mater Dei

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lady Highlanders crowned champs over Mater Dei

Posted on 03 April 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

After notching a complete game against Villa Park in the semifinals, Hannah Johnson tossed three scoreless innings in relief, helping the Lady Highlanders hang on for the 6-5 win over Mater Dei in the championship game of the Alan Dugard Softball Classic Tournament.LHHS SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP_Web

The No. 4 team in California, Mater Dei didn’t go away quietly on Saturday night. With runners on second and third and two down in the seventh, closer Harley Wells fielded a comebacker cleanly and fired the ball to first base, picking up the save and the title for La Habra.

Head Coach Steve Harrington was impressed with how his team responded to adversity against one of the top teams in California, especially in such a high pressure situation, which he admitted La Habra had never experienced before.

“That’s kind of our mantra, to be resilient and these kids demonstrated that today,” Harrington said. “They had a great deal of heart when their back was against the wall and they didn’t start ripping at each other, they started praising each other.”

Harrington said he knew playing Mater Dei was going to be tough until the final out.

“Number one they are a fantastic team, they are well coached, they are good people and good kids,” Harrington said. “I know some of those kids, they are good players, so we knew this was going to be a battle back and forth.”

The end couldn’t come soon enough for the Lady Highlanders, who had to play back to back games totalling over four hours of play that began at 5:15 p.m.

The Lady Highlanders got on the board in early, scoring their first run in the second inning on a RBI single from Nikki Butler.

The rest of the offensive action for both teams happened in the third.

La Habra added to their lead with five more runs, all coming with two outs in the top half of the inning. With the bases loaded, starting pitcher Janelle Rodriguez lined a two-run single into the outfield. Butler came up big again with a bases clearing double to the right-centerfield gap, giving her 3 RBI in the game.

After replacing starter Gabrielle Sandoval, relief pitcher Danielle Kahn hit the first batter she faced, then allowed an infield single that brought home the final run.

Mater Dei surged back into the game in the bottom half of the inning, scoring four of their five runs. The first two came on a squeeze bunt. Rodriguez fielded the ball quickly and underhanded it to Butler, who blocked the plate and applied the tag a hair late. The second run scored on Butler’s throw to second. The Lady Monarchs added two more before Rodriguez settled down to retire the final out in the inning.

Harrington said that he didn’t get frustrated, instead he tried to encourage his team reminding them they had a big lead, not to dwell on the mistakes.

“The last thing a kid needs is for you to yell at her and tell her what she already knows,” he said.

Rodriguez was cruising along until the uncharacteristically sloppy inning, finishing with 2 earned runs and 4 strikeouts in just 3 innings.

“I was hoping that mentally the way we prepare, the way we play, that we would be able to weather that storm and rather than get caught up in the hype of it all,” Harrington said.

Johnson picked up her second win of the day, going 3 innings with 2 strikeouts. She also tossed a complete game against Villa Park, racking up 9 strikeouts. Johnson was credited with an unearned run in the seventh, after the throw from shortstop on the would be third out sailed wide of first base.

Wells inherited a high-leverage situation, entering in the bottom of the seventh with two on and no out. However, despite the throwing error, Wells proved up for the task and handled the pressure well.

Rodriguez and Frankie Mendoza each hit a solo home run against Villa Park earlier in the day.

La Habra (16-1), the No. 3 team in California has now won 13 straight. Mater Dei (16-3) had won their previous seven coming into the title game.

The Lady Highlanders start Freeway League play April 12 at Sonora.

Comments Off on Lady Highlanders crowned champs over Mater Dei

Tags: , , , , ,

Unstoppable Hope

Posted on 13 August 2014 by La Habra Journal

La Habra’s Hope Moreno looks  toward success on the next level

By Luke Wilson
La Habra Journal

Hope Moreno is one of the most dedicated softball players to have come through La Habra High School.LHHS_SHS Moreno_1 copy
However, if you ask anyone who has seen her play, or better yet heard her, then you’ll know that she is undoubtedly one of the best leaders and communicators that the Lady Highlanders’ Field has ever seen.
When asked how she got to where she is now in the world of softball, she quickly answered, “Practice.”
Unlike most softball and baseball players, who talk about their regime of how to get better at the plate, Moreno gets the most excited about a different facet of the game.

Player Spotlight: Hope Moreno Video

“I could seriously take ground balls all day,” she explained.
That sort of attention to the tough and oft-ignored defensive side of the ball describes Hope in more ways than one.
To be a defensive specialist at second base and at the position fondly dubbed, “the Hot Corner,” is no simple task.
Another reason that she loves defense, is the communication involved with it. Here communication on the field is something she became known for at La Habra.
“I have to talk,” Moreno said. “People are like, ‘If you don’t talk, it’s kind of weird seeing you play.’”
That sort of on-field communication is something that you’ll hear coaches stress in every sport on a daily basis, but its importance is sometimes missed due to a greater attention to improving stats.
As a four-year varsity starter, and a two-year captain, Hope knows that the other girls listen and watch her, and when she’s as vocal as she is, it helps keep their unit even more cohesive.LHHS_SHS Moreno_2 copy
“Being a leader to me is where I feel like you can always have the younger girls come to you,” she explained. “You’re always keeping people in the game, you’re talking constantly with everyone, making sure the team is together. It’s a hard job honestly.”
That ability to stand out in a game, and have her presence not only heard, but felt allowed her to get recruited by some of the nation’s top softball programs. However, not as quickly as Hope might have liked.
An unspoken part of the recruitment process from high school to college is that it is all about who you know, and playing for a top caliber school. Moreno explained that she had to work for the attention that she received.
“I didn’t get recruited until my junior year,” she explained. “A lot of people were getting recruited their freshman and sophomore years.”
The first school that managed to bring her in for a visit was Portland State.
“I saw them at a tournament in Vegas. I had never heard of them,” she admitted. “I talked to the coach, then she came out and saw me play. It all happened really quick.”
After visiting the campus, Hope said she fell in love with the Portland area campus. In January of her junior year she verbally committed to play there.
However, things took a different twist later that year.  Hope received some startling news.
“I got a call in April, saying that the head coach and the assistant. coach are going to UTEP [the University of Texas at El Paso],” she said. “I was kind of scared.”
After receiving reassurances from the new coaches at each school that they still wanted her talents, Hope decided to give UTEP a visit.
West Texas is vastly different from the Pacific Northwest.  In addition, UTEP played in a more competitive conference, so the level of play would be higher from day one.
She compared everything from schooling possibilities, to coaches, to campuses.
Her desire to study nursing was a large part of her decision on what school to attend. It also helps explain her desire to help others on and off the field.
After some consideration, her decision was very clear. LHJ Hope Moreno__31
“Times ten,” she explained how much she loved UTEP. Not long after, she was officially a UTEP Miner.
What was it like for Moreno to sign after such an arduous process?
“It was a sigh of relief,” she said. “I was extremely excited. I was like, ‘Can I do it already? Can I tell them?’”
However, despite all the excitement of the decision, taking the next step and playing at a higher level at a place  far from where she has spent 18 years of her life is a big step.
This will be Hope’s first time living away from La Habra. She explained that she knows that she will get a little homesick. Luckily, she will have plenty to keep her busy in El Paso.
Hope is looking forward to the new challenge and excited about playing with her new team mates.
With her dedication to the game and her drive to help others, there is no doubt that she will quickly become an integral part of UTEP team   and help lead the Miners to success.

Comments Off on Unstoppable Hope

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big swing by Palos Verdes leads to early exit for Lady Highlanders

Posted on 21 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Nikki Butler drove in the lone La Habra run in the first inning, but the Lady Highlanders fell to Palos Verdes 5-1 after giving up a big fifth inning, Tuesday afternoon at home.

Nikki Butler drove in the lone La Habra run in the first inning, but the Lady Highlanders fell to Palos Verdes 5-1 after giving up a big fifth inning, Tuesday afternoon at home.

by Daniel Hargis
La Habra Journal

One inning was all it took to sway the tide of Tuesday’s CIF-SS Division 3 First Round softball game between co-Freeway League champion La Habra and Palos Verdes.

Unfortunately for the Lady Highlanders, the tide swayed in favor of the visiting Sea Queens, who prevailed 5-1 after winning their wild card matchup 7-3 against Kaiser on Monday.

“That’s what happens in the playoffs,” La Habra head coach Frank McCarroll said. “You get an opportunity to win and teams take advantage of it, we didn’t and they did.”

Palos Verdes (21-6, 8-2), the No. 2 team from the Bay League, trailed 1-0 entering the top of the fifth inning.

Consecutive singles to open the inning put pressure on La Habra (18-11, 7-3), but a walk issued by pitcher Janelle Rodriguez created a jam that it would not get out of.

Rodriguez hit the next batter to even the score at 1-1. Senior second baseman Sami Silvestri batted in the game-winning run at the next at bat, and the next play proved to put the game out of reach.

Junior third baseman Johniann Wahl belted a double to center field to score two more. The cutoff throw leaked past La Habra catcher Nikki Butler, allowing Silvestri to score the fifth run of the inning.

“Every team has a bad play, that one kind of ruined the game for us,” sophomore center fielder Jayanna Perez said.

It was bad timing for La Habra, who only had nine outs left to work with. The Palos Verdes defense took care of the rest, allowing only one more base runner, which came on an error.

La Habra, who earned the Freeway League’s No. 1 seed on a coin flip, scored its run in the first inning.

Consecutive singles and a walk fueled the fire, much like in the fifth inning for Palos Verdes, and Butler batted in the run on an infield single.

Rodriguez finished with one strikeout, two walks, six hits and four earned runs in five innings. Taylor Pierce rounded things out with three strikeouts, zero walks and zero runs in two innings.

Sea Queens pitcher Steffi Best pitched well, striking out eight, hitting one, and giving up six hits and one earned run.

Perez had a game-high three hits and the Lady Highlanders stranded six base runners.

“We were looking for hits with people on base and we didn’t get it done,” McCarroll said. “We’re still young and most of the kids we’re counting on are coming back (next season).”

La Habra finished the season with its sixth consecutive Freeway League championship, along with Fullerton and Sunny Hills in a three-way tie, and graduates only three seniors.

Comments Off on Big swing by Palos Verdes leads to early exit for Lady Highlanders

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lady Heralds lose early lead, fall to Temescal Canyon in first round

Posted on 20 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian's Katelyn Wagner threw six-plus innings, allowing four runs on six hits while striking out three batters as the Lady Heralds fell to Temescal Canyon in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, 4-2 at home, Tuesday afternoon.

Whittier Christian’s Katelyn Wagner threw six-plus innings, allowing four runs on six hits while striking out three batters as the Lady Heralds fell to Temescal Canyon in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, 4-2 at home, Tuesday afternoon.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The Whittier Christian softball team went into the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs riding a five-game win streak and plenty of momentum after a blowout win over Maranatha to close the regular season.

The co-Olympic League champions took a quick 2-0 lead over first-round opponent Temescal Canyon, but the offense went stagnant the rest of the way as the Titans came back to defeat the Lady Heralds 4-2, Tuesday afternoon at home.

With strong winds coming in from the outfield, Whittier Christian’s attempts to get under the ball and drive it into the outfield resulted in seven infield pop fly balls and four more routine fly balls into the outfield.

“I felt confident that we could make a run at CIF,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach. “However much confidence we have, we still have to do the job. We made adjustments early, but couldn’t keep it going.”

In contrast, Temescal Canyon broke through with ground balls up the middle and a couple line drives. The Titans took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning with RBI singles by Kora Wade and Mikayla Lawerence.

The Titans [19-10] had no problem driving the ball back up the middle, however, Lady Heralds’ starting pitcher Katelyn Wagner gloved five of those ground balls for outs.

“We played a good game, Katelyn pitched a great game,” Van Duyn said. “Hannah [Gabriel] came in and played great and Taylor [Escobar] came up with some big plays. I thought we played a great game, it shouldn’t have ended up this way, but that’s softball.”

In the seventh inning, the Titans padded their lead with a sacrifice fly by Taylor Eden, scoring Kendall Niccoli-Sampang from third base.

Whittier Christian scored both of its runs in the first inning. After loading the bases, Escobar then hit a sharp grounder up the middle to give the Lady Heralds a quick 2-0 lead. Behind the plate, Escobar came up with a key double play to end a threat in the second inning.

But Temescal Canyon starting pitcher Mo Libunao settled down after the rocky start, retiring nine batters in a row at one point.

“I have to give credit to [Libunao], she kept it to where we tried to get underneath it and we didn’t adjust,” Van Duyn said.

The Lady Heralds finish their season with a 16-11 record and claimed a share of the Olympic League title before falling in the first round, Tuesday.

“What I liked about this group was that they refocused and realized they had to compete as a group,” Van Duyn said. “When they did that, they won games and accomplished great things.”

Comments Off on Lady Heralds lose early lead, fall to Temescal Canyon in first round

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lady Raiders outdone by Crescenta Valley in Wild Card round

Posted on 19 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Audrey Castro scored a run in the fourth inning and drove home another in the fifth inning, but it wasn't enough as Sonora fell to Crescenta Valley 6-3 in the Wild Card round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs, Monday afternoon on the road.

Sonora’s Audrey Castro scored a run in the fourth inning and drove home another in the fifth inning, but it wasn’t enough as Sonora fell to Crescenta Valley 6-3 in the Wild Card round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs, Monday afternoon on the road.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

LA CRESCENTA – The absence of shortstop Chelsea Purcell could be felt by the Sonora softball team in the first two innings of its CIF-SS Division 3 Wild Card game against Crescenta Valley.

Down 4-0, the sophomore was inserted on defense in the bottom half of the third inning and the tension of her teammates seemed to lift as the Lady Raiders scored three runs in their half of the fourth and fifth innings to make it a one-run game.

However, Lady Falcons leadoff hitter Hailey Cookson erased all that momentum with her second home run of the game, a two-run shot to center field in the bottom of the fifth inning to lift Crescenta Valley past Sonora 6-3, Monday afternoon.

“That was the nail in the coffin,” said Michelle Rodriguez, Sonora head coach, of the home run. “The girls still answered back a little, but we just didn’t have enough punch in the end.”

Despite sending the game-tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh inning, Audrey Castro grounded out to Crescenta Valley starting pitcher Olivia Thayer to end the ball game and Sonora’s season.

The Lady Falcons (16-11-1) squared the ball up well off Sonora starting pitcher Sam Casanas, totaling 12 hits in the ball game. Cookson led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run to right center field.

Taylor Hill and Sydnee Wells added RBI-singles and Crescenta Valley’s first six batters reached base with four hits and two walks.

“I talked with [Sam] before the game if she was nervous or afraid, because they have some big time hitters,” Rodriguez said. “She said that she was just struggling today. She looked a little defeated. As important as composure and attitude is, she doesn’t always show it, but she wasn’t scared either, it’s just her inexperience and being young.”

Crescenta Valley added an RBI-single by catcher Rachael Abboud in the second inning for a quick 4-0 lead.

Purcell missed the first two innings for disciplinary reasons, but the tides turned when she was reinserted. Crescenta Valley tested her immediately with a sharp grounder, but the sophomore shortstop handled it with ease, showing range and a strong arm to retire the leadoff batter in the third inning.

In the top of the fourth inning, Sonora got to Thayer. Audrey Castro singled, reached second base on an error and was sacrificed to third base. Purcell was hit by a pitch and stole second base before Madison Gimpl knocked them both in with an infield single.

In the fifth inning, Castro hit a double deep to left field, scoring Katie Amaral from second base to cut the deficit to one run.

“I think we learned a lot in the last week of the league season, we showed up late in both ball games,” Rodriguez said. “We can’t try to make up four runs in the last two innings, we had to chip away and that’s what we did. We executed a gameplan, scored some runs and kept it close. We had two mistakes and that was the difference.”

With one out in the bottom half of the fifth inning, junior Calley Ellingford hit an infield single to set the stage for Cookson’s second home run, a line drive shot over the fence in center field.

Sonora’s season ends at 13-13, but the Lady Raiders program continued to move forward with the opportunity of competing in its first playoff game since 2009.

The Lady Raiders will lose four seniors in Castro, Amaral, Leandra Jew and Brandi Landino to graduation. All four seniors were starters for Sonora this season.

“I feel we accomplished a goal, definitely,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t feel like we met the potential of what could have been, I thought we could have done some special things this season, but all-in-all, I’m very proud of what the girls accomplished this season.”

Comments Off on Lady Raiders outdone by Crescenta Valley in Wild Card round

Tags: , , , ,

Athlete Spotlight: Sophomore Chelsea Purcell’s drive is helping Sonora into possible postseason

Posted on 14 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Photo by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

Photo by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Sonora’s Chelsea Purcell may not have endured the growing pains that some of her senior teammates did a couple years ago, but because of the sophomore’s competitive nature, she’s helping those seniors in an attempt to realize a goal of making the CIF playoffs.

Thanks in part to Chelsea’s surge at the plate, the Lady Raiders’ softball team finds itself in a four-way tie for the Freeway League lead with two games to play.

Two years ago, the varsity team had no seniors. Now the team is gunning for the league title, with games against city rival La Habra and Sunny Hills this week.

“I wanted to just step into a leadership role on the team and I wanted to be there and be the player the team needed me to be,” Chelsea said of her thoughts heading into this season. “Whether that meant at shortstop or hitting third or fourth in the lineup, I just wanted to contribute in any way I could for this team.”

Over the past two weeks, the Lady Raiders are 3-1 and were one out away from making it a 4-0 run and possibly sole possession of the league lead.

During that stretch, Chelsea’s overall play has contributed greatly. The sophomore went 9-for-17 with three home runs, two doubles, six runs scored and seven runs-batted-in.

Some of those hits have come in key situations, such as a three-run home run in the seventh inning against Troy to turn a one-run lead into a four-run cushion in a road contest, May 1.

Chelsea believes that her surge at the plate is a result of extra help she’s received from her father, Mo, at home.

“My dad has been home a lot more often and has been helping me with hitting the ball off the tee and going to the field and pitching to me,” Chelsea said. “He’s always taught me to see the ball, hit the ball and that calms me down at the plate. I think it’s helped a lot.”

In addition, Chelsea’s work at the shortstop position has also helped. The sophomore has not committed an error in her last six games and she’s only committed one error in Freeway League play this season.

“I’ve known Chelsea since she was five years old, she’s always been very competitive, it’s in her nature to want to win,” said Michelle Rodriguez, Sonora softball coach. “She’s known about the program for a while and she probably would have played a few years back if she could have, that’s just the type of competitor she is.”

Coming in to her sophomore season, Chelsea said she wanted to try and begin the process of stepping into a leadership role.

That extra motivation is paying off in the numbers, in which she leads the team in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI. She also ranks second in runs scored.

“It’s something special, this team has a lot of team chemistry and that has helped to the overall results a lot,” Chelsea said. “I always try to keep it on from beginning to end, my parents instilled that in me, no matter what happens, you have to keep going.”

However, Rodriguez said that while she’s impressed with Chelsea’s talent and her motivation to produce for her team, she admits that she would like to keep some of that potential pressure off her sophomore shortstop during the remainder of this season.

“Her ability is undeniable, but sometimes she carries a little too much pressure and that’s what we’re trying to bring down,” Rodriguez said. “We want to make sure that she doesn’t feel that pressure, she’s a sophomore and she’s definitely stepped up, but we want to make sure it’s not a burden on her. I threw her in the fire last year, but she’s been able to handle it and the difference has been leaps and bounds since last year.”

When it comes to the final weeks of her sophomore season, Chelsea said she just wants to keep producing to help her team close out the regular season and head into the playoffs.

“I just want to keep progressing,” she said. “Staying on it and working hard during practices is going to help me, so I have to keep on myself for that. As a team, we’re working well, we just want to keep up what we’re doing.”

When she’s not on the field or in the classroom, Chelsea still keeps her mind in the sport of softball by helping her niece, Jalen, who has recently started to play the game.

In the classroom, Chelsea carried a 4.3 Grade Point Average into the Spring semester and is working hard to maintain that as she approaches the end of the school year.

The sophomore enjoys studying AP European History as well as Chemistry.

“I really like Mrs. Appenrodt, she makes the class more personal and she’s helped me immensely with my academic career,” Chelsea said. “With Chemistry, Dr. Hawkins has definitely impacted me and has helped me grow as a sophomore, so I want to make sure they know I appreciate them.”

With the combination of her strong play and hard work in the classroom, Chelsea has already verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame earlier this year.

When it comes to role models, Chelsea said she receives an endless amount of support from her family.

“My parents (Mo and Pamela) have definitely impacted my life, if I have personal problems or troubles with academics, they’re always my motivators,” Chelsea said. “My sister has always been a role model since she played while I was growing up and my grandparents, they’re my biggest supporters in life.”

The sophomore has taken that support system and paid it forward to her teammates in the form of her bat and her glove, which continue to shine as the Lady Raiders continue to push for the playoffs.

“She really took to the learning expectations of the program and you can tell she wants that position,” Rodriguez said. “She sets a good example for everybody. It’s great knowing that we don’t have to start over with new faces having to step up after this season. I tell the girls all the time that you don’t have to have the title of Captain to be a leader and she’s gone with that.”

Comments Off on Athlete Spotlight: Sophomore Chelsea Purcell’s drive is helping Sonora into possible postseason

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Risky play leads to big reward for Lady Heralds in win over league rival

Posted on 14 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian's Mackenzie Lou slides into second base just before the tag is applied during Whittier Christian's 5-4 win over Valley Christian, Tuesday afternoon on the road.

Whittier Christian’s Mackenzie Lou slides into second base just before the tag is applied during Whittier Christian’s 5-4 win over Valley Christian, Tuesday afternoon on the road.

story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

After a reversed call prevented the Whittier Christian softball team from taking a lead in the seventh inning, Melissa Martene had had enough with the heat, scoring from second base on a routine groundout in the 10th inning to lift the Lady Heralds over rival Valley Christian, Tuesday afternoon at Valley Christian High.

The win evens the series between the two rival schools and also leaves open the possibility of a split league title between the two as Valley Christian leads by a half-game.

Melissa Martene led off the 10th inning with a double to centerfield. Celeste Adriano failed to advance her to third after she grounded out to shortstop. Katelyn Wagner drew a walk, putting runners on first and second base. Morgan Ryan hit a lazy grounder which normally would have gone unnoticed, but instead Martene broke for home.

“Dale always tells us, two outs, two bases, so I went for my two bases.” Martene said.

On a day where the girls were playing in heat in the 90’s, and started an hour later than expected, Martene was ready to go home.

“I was tired after the seventh inning, but our team pulled through, they really did,” she said. “We were clutch at bat, we each helped each out at the plate, we never gave up on each other, and that’s what it takes to win,”

In the top of the seventh inning, the Lady Heralds (15-10, 6-1) nearly broke the tie which could have prevented extra innings.

Hannah Gabriel led off the seventh inning with a single and Taylor Escobar singled. The two runners advanced on a wild pitch. With two outs, Mackenzie Lou hit a hard grounder to second baseman Nicole Parker, who bobbled the ball, but quickly recovered to fling the ball over to first base.

Whittier Christian's Katelyn Wagner throws a pitch during the Lady Heralds' 5-4 win over Valley Christian, Tuesday afternoon on the road.

Whittier Christian’s Katelyn Wagner throws a pitch during the Lady Heralds’ 5-4 win over Valley Christian, Tuesday afternoon on the road.

The umpire initially called Lou safe, but after yelling from the Crusader fans and a meeting with the home plate umpire, the call was changed, the run was wiped from the board, and the Heralds headed to the bottom of the seventh intent on protecting the tie.

“She was on way before the ball was there, so the game should have been over in the seventh inning,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach.

Valley Christian (8-14, 7-1) saw all of its offensive production from the first four batters in the lineup, but with two outs and the bases loaded, fifth batter and starting pitcher, Anna Collier stepped to the plate with a chance to give her team a victory.

Katelyn Wagner had pitched six strong innings at that point keeping the Crusaders to four runs. Determined to send the game into extra innings and give her team a chance to win, she struck out Collier to get out of the seventh inning. Wagner would finish having pitched eight-and-two-thirds innings.

The Lady Heralds got an unlikely spark from Lou in the fourth inning, while they were struggling to keep pace with the Lady Crusaders who were up 3-1 at the time.

“Every base means something, it’s another base, it’s another run,” Lou said. “You do everything for your team, it’s nothing from selfish ambition, it’s all for all of us.”

With two outs Lou hit a slow grounder and beat out the throw to first base. From there, she swiped second and moved to third on a wild pitch.

“It takes all the courage you have inside your body to do it,” Van Duyn said about stealing bases. “Once you make a decision, go for it, and she’s been doing it, with her speed, its paid off.”

After the game Lou struggled to speak but was elated about the crucial victory.

“This game gives me more of a rush than any other,” Lou said, “Not having won on this field for over eight years and then breaking that, it feels so amazing, I want to cry, it’s the greatest feeling in the world, knowing you accomplished something you set out to do.

With the victory the Heralds can share the league title with Valley Christian if they beat Maranatha on Thursday at home on Senior day.

Comments Off on Risky play leads to big reward for Lady Heralds in win over league rival

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here

Current Issue: