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Bruins seek a return to the top of the PVL

Bear River Softball Outlook
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LAKE OF THE PINES — The Bear River High softball team won its last Sac-Joaquin Section title in 2010 and the Bruins haven’t won a Pioneer Valley League crown since 2009. But a team loaded with nine seniors is still regarded as one of the favorites for the PVL crown, and more. “We’re really excited for the season,” power-hitting catcher Alyssa Reina said. “Everyone on the team brings their own strengths. We have nine seniors and we want to go out with a big bang.” Reina anchors a defense that is very tough up the middle. Shortstop Stephanie Ceo is headed to Texas to play softball and she is one of the top talents in the section. The third and final Ceo sister to star at Bear River, Stephanie said she’s gotten stronger since last season. “I’m more confident this year and I feel stronger with my hitting,” Ceo said. “I’ve just tried to keep my hitting on track, making sure my basic mechanics stay the same. It all starts with the mechanics.” At second base, speedy junior Ali Thill returns. Cambria Holcomb suffered a shoulder injury that kept her out most of last season, but she is back at third base and is swinging the bat well. Senior Mackinze Hollister returns at first base and already has a team-high four doubles in seven games. In the outfield, senior Ashleigh Higginbotham has shown great improvement. Sophomore Rachel Last is showing great promise and seniors Jenny Astwood and Kaleigh Casey are strong contributors. Coach Duane Zauner has two excellent options in the pitcher’s circle. Erin Nichol and Maddie Phelps are both hard-throwing, experienced pitchers and Zauner expects to rotate them evenly throughout the season. “Two years ago Erin pitched and we won a section championship,” Zauner said. “Last year Erin was hurt and Maddie got to pitch a lot so we feel very confident with both of them. When one’s on, the other one is supporting them. It’s a coach’s dream with the way they support each other.” Reina is all smiles when it comes to talking about her pitchers. “They’re both my best friends,” said Reina, who has three home runs and eight RBIs in seven games this season. “I know them and they know me. They know what’s going on in my head and I know what’s going on in their head without even talking about it. They’re good friends too, so it’s great. It makes my job a lot easier.” Bear River has faced some of the top competition in the section early on this season. The Bruins are just 3-4 and Zauner said defensive miscues have proven costly. “We have a lot of kids returning, but when you play that tough of a schedule, you have to make the basic plays and we’ve struggled with that,” Zauner said. “But I think that’s going to turn around. I’m not too worried.” Bear River is one of the favorites in the PVL, along with two-time defending champion Lincoln, a tough Colfax squad and a re-energized Placer team. The Bruins don’t plan on taking anyone lightly. “This league is always really tough,” Ceo said. “There’s not really a weak spot. Every game, we have to be ready for a battle and stay on top of our game.”