The St. Vincent High School softball team will defend its North Coast Section Division 5 championship with a team that is young, but veteran. The Lady Mustangs have just two seniors on the team, but the entire starting lineup is comprised of players who either started, or played considerably, on last season's championship team.
About the only things really new about this year's team are coaches Sadie Dolcini and Pete Sikora, who join Henry Sarlatte and head coach Don Jensen. The head coach says they have brought a new way of doing things to the team. "They were great pick ups," he says. "They have brought a whole new energy to the team. It has taken the kids a while to warm up to the way they do things, but thy are beginning to catch on."
Key to St. Vincent's defense of not only its league title but also its NCS championship are veteran pitchers junior Hayley Olson and sophomore Hannah Sarlatte, Olson has been tested under fire, pitching the big games for the Lady Mustangs during last year's successful season. Sarlatte also pitched well as a freshman. They give St. Vincent as good a one-two pitching punch as any Division 5 school in the section. Waiting in the wings and expecting to see time in the circle is freshman Amanda Yarger, an impressive left hander.
A key addition to this year's team is sophomore Mary Cerf, who takes over as catcher. "She has been doing great," Jensen says.
Her ability to catch allows junior Ursyla Baumgarten, one of the best athletes in the North Bay, to move to her preferred position at shortstop where she strengthens an already solid infield. With Baumgarten at shortstop, senior team co-captain Morgan Selmi can slide over and play second base, giving St. Vincent one of the area's best middle infield combinations.
The corner infield positions are in the capable veteran hands of Sarlatte at first bas and senior Hannah Upton, another of the St. Vincent captains, at third base. When Sarlatte pitches, sophomore Alexis Torres will take over at first base.
Torres will generally start in the outfield along with junior Rainey Henry and sophomore Isabel Velez. They form a good defensive trio that can cover a lot of ground,
Sophomore Olivia Sikora will also get playing time in the outfield and could catch if needed.
While Olson and Sarlatte are capable of limiting the run production of most opposing teams, St. Vincent's batting order is strong from top to bottom. The speedy Selmi leads off with the team's best bunter, Sarlatte, batting in the No. 2 spot. Baumgarten, one of the top hitters in the area, bats third, with Upton in the clean-up position and the impressive Torres hitting fifth. There is little drop off in the bottom of the order with Olson, Cerf, Henry and Velez all capable hitters.
As usual, St. Vincent, a Division V team, tuned up for its NCL II season by taking on Division II and III teams, and its 2-6 pre-league record reflects the difficulty of its schedule. "We like to play the big schools. It prepares us for our playoffs," said Jensen.
And those playoffs, making the not-so-difficult assumption that the Lady Mustangs get to that point, will be even more difficult this spring.
"There are some good teams in Division V, and when you win a championship you get a huge target on your back," Jensen observes.