Feb. 6, 2008
Santa Clara, Calif. -- With the 2008 season approaching, the Santa Clara softball team is chomping at the bit to get back out on the field and make the year a memorable one. With a new head coach, Lisa Mize, and a large underclass, this 2008 is a new beginning for the team, as well as a last chance for the five seniors to go out on top.
The Broncos will open their season on Friday, Feb. 8 against Cal State Fullerton in the Fullerton/UCLA Tournament at 6 p.m. in Los Angeles.
"We have a young team, but we have high expectations to contend for a chance at the conference championship," said Mize. "The team has set high goals for themselves. They would like to surprise the softball world."
And surprise it they would. After a disappointing record of 12-47 last year, the team is looking to bounce back with a vengeance. Leading the way will be senior pitchers Jerrica Castagno and Jackie Morales. "Jerrica and Jackie will be our impact seniors," said Mize. "We're hoping they will carry us in the pitching staff."
Castagno and Morales give the Broncos a solid one-two punch on the mound. Castagno has the potential to be the team's strikeout pitcher. She throws the ball hard and Mize expects big things out of her if she can continue to stay healthy.
Then, changing things up, Morales comes at you not with explosion, but with accuracy. The team's most consistent pitcher, Morales moves the ball around and dominates her opponents by hitting her spots and with deadly off-speed stuff.
To compliment the seniors is a large, but athletic underclass. "We have great flexibility, several players can play multiple positions," said Mize. "That makes us a very versatile team."
Sophomore Kaitlyn Rauschnot is another pitcher who will look to have some success on the mound and give the Broncos some good innings. She has shown great improvement from last season and has been working extremely hard, says Mize.
Offensively, sophomores Emily Batt and Breann Netto will give Santa Clara a boost this year. Batt, the starting catcher, worked a lot offensively in the offseason and Netto, who missed most of last season to a knee injury, will look to produce for the Broncos in a leadoff role this year.
Also returning for the Broncos are Jennifer Clarke, who has the best returning batting average this year despite only getting 25 at-bats last year, and Noelanie Ho'opi'i, both of which will be strong bats for Santa Clara.
Santa Clara also boasts a terrific freshman class this year, including outfield Jackie Nicora. "Jackie has had a great fall offensively and defensively," said Mize. "She's just an all out aggressive player."
Nicora is joined by fellow freshmen Shelby Gibbs and Jeanine Ruffoni on the field. Gibbs brings tremendous speed to the team and Ruffoni will step in as the starting shortstop for the Broncos. "Overall, our freshman class is a very confident, hardworking group," said Mize.
This year's team will have a new outlook and a newfound confidence according to Mize. Last year's squad had a lot of leads that they let slip away. That had a lot to do with a young team who had not learned to hold on to a lead and it left a bitter taste in the mouths of those players left over from last season.
"I would say about 75% of the games we lost last year would have gone in our favor if we would have learned how to shut the door on the other team," said Mize. "That is a focus of ours this year. We have a cohesiveness and a consistency that we are working towards that will have a great effect on our success."
With the new coach and young squad, it's only fitting that the 2008 softball team have a brand-new outlook for the season. Combine that with the confidence that this team has and maybe they can shock the softball world after all.