By Paul Muyskens
There are plenty of similarities this season between the Mustangs' baseball and softball teams as both enter this season coming off of a second straight state championship appearance but enter the 2020 season with a bunch of new players.
"There's just a handful of girls from last year's club so everyone is new," said head coach Jim Fisher after practice with the start of the season just days away. "I don't know what to expect. I am hoping we will compete. I wish I had better feel for what's going to happen, but I don't know."
Returning is one player who saw action in all 46 games last season, All-American Mikaela Ferreira. She returns for her sophomore season after leading the team's offense last season, hitting .539 with 53 runs batted in and 11 home runs while not striking out once in 167 at-bats.
"During fall we had spurts where we were very offensive and spurts where we were not offensive," said Fisher. "The potential is there to put up some runs"
Also back from last year's team that finished fourth in the state is Cheyenne Washington, who was third on the team last year with seven home runs while driving in 35 runs, and Ashley Laughlin, who drove in 16 runs.
"(Danyelle) Godoy and (Emma) Anderson are both pretty good athletes," said Fisher when asked about some of his new players that should see significant time in the field and at the plate for an offense that averaged over six and a half runs per game last year. "Madison Nelson can really hit. (Destiny) Guerrero is a transfer from Southwestern Oregon who can hit."
In the circle, the Mustangs will start the season counting on the right arm of Jenna Nauta, who returns after pitching 54 innings last year.
"[Jenna is] the most experienced right now so the load is going to start on her," said Fisher about his sophomore who started nine games last season and pitched two complete games. "We have a couple of others that are developing. Jenna is going to be expected to shoulder the heavy load early until everyone else gets the feel for college softball. She's ready for the role."
"I'm excited and ready for my time in the circle," said Nauta about her increased role in the circle this season. "I just have to focus on every pitch and what I could do better for the next batter or the next inning."
"The nice thing is everyone will get their shot and we will figure it out," said Fisher. "We have a lot of potential and with this group you never know."
The team will find out on Thursday afternoon with season-opening games on the road against Cabrillo and Sequoias. The home opener will be on Saturday as they take on Feather River at 10 a.m. and Reedley at 2 p.m.