There is no place like home, and Casa Grande High School's Lady Gaucho softball team hopes to reach it with a little more frequency now that North Bay League play has begun.

The Lady Gauchos, under first-year coach Joanna Martin, have generally played well against tough competition in pre-league play, but recently have had trouble getting hits at the proper time to drive home runs. With a junior/senior-dominated team, Casa has the potential to be a strong offensive team as it begins its first season in the NBL.

Although Casa Grande has solid players at almost every position, the heart of its team is its battery of pitcher Courtney Ludlow and catcher Carli Reinhard.

"We are going to be relying heavily on Courtney," says Martin. "The girls have confidence in her. They know she will keep us in the tight games." The senior is also one of the team's top hitters, batting in the clean-up spot in the batting order.

Sophomore Kayligh Hart will be the back-up pitcher and has shown promise in her first year on the varsity.

Reinhard is solid behind the plate and another good hitter. "She is a wall," is the way Martin puts it. She has a strong arm. She threw three runners out at second base against Clayton Valley. She and Courtney work really well together."

When she isn't pitching, Hart gives Casa Grande a good glove at first base.

The rest of the Casa Grande infield is solid at both the plate and in the field. Junior Ciera Perez is at second base and hits at the top of the order, setting the plate for the RBI girls — Lisa Nadell, Ludlow and Heather Zeeb. Nadell, a sophomore, plays third and is one of the team's power hitters, while senior Zeeb is the shortstop and another quality hitter. "We are also looking for her to play a leadership role," Martin says.

Several players will help in the outfield. Junior Caitlyn Cerini has good range and a strong arm in center field and sophomore Alexus Hale is also a strong defensive player.

Junior Sara Langdon will be in the lineup somewhere, whether it be at second base or in the outfield. She has excellent speed and utilizes it well at the leadoff position.

Junior Rachael Martinez has been hitting the ball well and will get playing time in the outfield or as the designated hitter.

Junior Savannah Stafford can help in the outfield and will pinch hit and often use her speed as a courtesy runner.

Senior Allie Fausone will play infield and she, too, has good speed that the Lady Gauchos can use on the base paths.

"We have players who will be playing a lot of different roles for us," Martin says. "We have good energy and we'll count on our seniors to bring the team together. I think we will have a real fundamental team that will be good defensively."

Martin took over for veteran coach Louie Bruce, but is still benefitting from his presence at most games. "I'm happy he had the confidence in me to pass the team along, but it is good to have him around," Martin says. "He is a good resource to have.'

Casa Grande has played a very difficult pre-league schedule and emerged with a good 4-4 record going into its first season in the North Bay League, a season Martin expects to be extremely competitive. "We know every game will be tough," she said. "We have our work cut out for us, but if we take care of Casa Grande softball, we'll be in every game."