Softball seeks to surpass shortcomings of last season

Heidi Roenisch

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Some say that those in second place are really just the first losers. After finishing second to Marin Catholic in the MCAL finals and second to Alhambra in the North Coast Sectional finals last year, the Redwood softball team is entering this season determined to regain the top spot and never experience that feeling again.

Losing is unfamiliar to the team, as the Redwood softball program has been a perennial contender, winning seven of the last ten league pennants, including six in a row from 2006-2011.

Junior captain Sabrina Nunez, who committed to Cal for softball her freshman year and was the 2015 MCAL player of the year, attributed the team’s failure to finish last season to a lack of team chemistry.

“Last year, we couldn’t make that last push and unify under a common goal,” Nunez said. “Our talent had gotten us there, but our chemistry lacked at the last second.”

According to head coach Gary Casassa, this year they are focused on the pennant.

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“There’s only one spot to improve to,” he said. “We have most everyone coming back, that’s the good news. The bad news is that the one girl not coming back is two time MCAL pitcher of the year, Lani [Kaleikini].”

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Nunez also believes losing Kaleikini will impact the team this year.

“Without Lani it’s going to be hard, but if everyone steps up we can definitely be successful,” she said.

The team will look to sophomore pitchers Cat Jensen and Morgan Celis to fill the starting pitcher gap.

Nunez believes that the team will be able to rely on its current seniors, who make up the majority of the starting lineup and include MCAL second-teamers Kayla Rose and Shawn McCullough.

Casassa also thinks the upperclassman will play a key role.

“We’ve got six seniors and five of them are returning starters, and Sabrina’s all [league] everything,” he said.

However, Casassa emphasized the importance of playing as a team.

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“Experience is our main strength. I count on them all, they all have a job to get done,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I count on just one person to get it done.”

According to senior Shawn McCullough, the Giants will look to their offense to carry them.

“We’re going to be be heavily relying on our hitting and offense to improve, and we always have a strong defense,” she said.

Both Nunez and McCullough noted that chemistry and communication are areas that need improvement, but they aren’t concerned given how early it is in the season.

Photo by Heidi Roenisch

Fielding the ball at third base, freshman Ella Morrison is part of Redwood’s first JV team in 5 years.

“We’re a little bit rusty right now with some of our basic mechanics and fielding,” Nunez said. “But our hitting has been going surprisingly well.”

Redwood will also be fielding a 12 person JV team for the first time in five years.

“A big strength this year is our JV team because we have a lot of players getting experience and getting two years of training,” McCullough said. “Having this developmental team will really help later on, especially since the team will be graduating seven seniors this year.”

Since no other MCAL schools have JV teams, the Redwood squad will compete with teams from Sonoma and the East Bay. Its season will end about three weeks before varsity’s, allowing players to be pulled up for playoffs if the need arises.

Gary Casassa was recently inducted into the Redwood Athletic Hall of Fame for his 27 years of coaching varsity softball, during which he has led the team to 11 MCAL titles and two first place NCS finishes.

“It’s a great honor, especially with some of the names that are in there, people that were my mentors and that I look up to,” Casassa said.

Redwood’s next home game is a non-league matchup against Ukiah on Thursday, March 17.  

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