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New coach, new league for St. Vincent softball

Coupled with the departure of legendary softball coach Don Jensen, the successful St. Vincent girls program is taking a vastly uncharted fork in the road this season with its promotion into the North Bay League Redwood under first-year mentor Morgan Selmi.

The promotion of Selmi was no surprise to Jensen who hand-picked his third base coach to take over the head coach chores. Selmi, a key member of the 2013 North Coast Section winning Mustangs under Jensen, is joined by former teammates from the same squad Hannah Sarlatte and Ursyla Baumgarten, and it has been a smooth transition so far.

“We are settling into a nice coaching rhythm,” noted Selma. “This is my fourth season, and the two other coaches are making strong contributions.

Hannah was a pitcher, so she is working with both Sophia Skubic and Maddy DeLaMontanya on style and calling pitches. Ursyla was an infielder like myself, and it really helps with practice coaching assignments.”

To date, the Mustangs are 5-5 on the diamond with an undefeated 2-0 mark in the NBL which includes a couple of one-run victories.

Last past weekend, St. Vincent wrapped up play in the Cloverdale Tournament on a rain swept Saturday by splitting games against Clear Lake 4-5 and Kelseyville 8-3. Most of the key players have returned from the 10-4 squad last year during the partial season with no playoffs.

Jensen rang up 264 victories in his storied career on the Mustang diamond, and his teams never ducked difficult opponents in their pre-league campaigns. A similar approach has been adopted by Selmi, whose squad knocked off West County High 3-1 in their opener in Sebastopol.

The Mustangs will advance in Division V play as far as their senior battery of pitcher Sophia Skubic and catcher Maddy DeLaMontonya will take them.

Last year, the Mustangs slugged their way to 10 wins against North Bay level competition, but nothing really counted because of COVID limitations, and there were no playoffs.

Younger players Vanessa Rios, Molly O'Connor, Sophia Romano, Maddie Badaglia, and slick-fielding Izzy Badaglia all got valuable experience.

This year, freshman hopefuls Hailey Sarlatte, Madelyn Rynning, Ileana Jiminez and Kiera Squires are all battling for playing time on the Mustang varsity along with sophomore Ava Sullivan.

Rynning is currently swatting the ball at a surprising .353 clip. “She can catch as well,” added Selmi.

Skubic, with three seasons of varsity competition, pitched for the North Central League winners in 2019, and tossed an outstanding game in the NCS championship game against Hoopa Valley. Her ERA is presently 2.04 with 4 victories. She is also the Mustang leadoff batter, hitting from the left side of the plate.

Injury problems kept her off the rubber at the Cloverdale Tournament, but Selmi has hopes that she will be back when league play resumes. “We are just hoping that she will regain her strength,” said the coach.

DeLaMontonya has improved her receiving every season, and is playing very well defensively. She has a solid arm. Her present batting average is a solid .391 with 6 RBIs. Often opponents will attempt to pitch around her bat. Her on-base percentage is .440. She is also the second pitcher on the team, and threw all three games at Cloverdale.

This could be a breakout season for junior shortstop Kat Cespedes who has been robbed by COVID limitations in spite of hitting the ball at a terrific clip last season. She stepped right into the shortstop position in her first season, and fielded well for a ninth grader. She is currently leading the Mustangs with a glossy .400 batting average.

“Kat has had some injury issues, but still managed an inside-the-park home run in our game against Clear Lake,” said Selmi. “We think she will be ready to resume play when league gets started again.”

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