Burning for a title

New Foresthill softball coach has Wildfires eyeing school’s first-ever CVCL championship; Forest Lake Christian also looks to contend
By: Todd Mordhorst and Ray Hacke, Journal Sports Writers
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Foresthill Last season: 7-13 (third in CVCL) Key returners: Sam Misuraca (SS), Corrine Nevares (P), Brianne Reed (C) Today: Cristo Rey at Foresthill, 4 p.m. George Fitzinger isn’t afraid to set the bar high in his first season as coach of the Foresthill High softball team. The veteran coach, who’s spent most of his 31 years of coaching on the baseball diamond, led the Wildfires’ baseball team to the school’s first league title in any sport two seasons ago. Now he’s hoping to add a softball banner to the school’s collection. “In baseball we put the first banner up and we’d like to do the same thing for softball,” Fitzinger said. “This is a great spirited bunch of girls, most of the time they pay attention and they’re really into it this year.” The Wildfires have a great foundation to build around in junior pitcher Corrine Nevares, senior catcher Brianne Reed and senior shortstop Sam Misuraca. Nevares is a crafty pitcher and Reed brings unusual skills behind the plate and with the bat. “She’s hitting the crap out of the ball right now,” Fitzinger said of Reed. “She’s been talking to colleges about playing and we’re really happy to have her out there this year.” Nevares has added to her skill set as a complete player “She’s developed into a one heck of a pitcher,” Fitzinger said. “She’s been putting the bat on the ball too.” Senior Elizabeth Franceshini leads the outfield crew in center. Stacy Ortega, Jennifer Harley and Jessica Triggs are also in the outfield mix. Junior Lindsay Fitzinger was the one who talked her father into coaching the team this season. She plays third base or first. Corrine’s freshman sister Nichole Nevares is steady at second base and is also a reliable pitcher. Kristen Hendricks and Caitlin McCann add depth to the infield mix. Sophomore speedster Trysa Ferguson is Fitzinger’s go-to pinch-runner and should see increased playing time as the season progresses. Fitzinger has drummed up support for the softball program, getting boosters and the school to chip in for new equipment and getting the community excited about the team. “They really feel like they’re no longer at the bottom of the totem pole now,” Fitzinger said. The Central Valley Christian League race appears to be wide open, with Foresthill (3-4-1, 2-0), Forest Lake Christian and Woodland Christian all starting strong. “I think we have a good chance to do well in league,” Fitzinger said. “I’m getting to know them as a group and I’m having a lot of fun. The girls are really looking forward to playing the best teams in the league — Forest Lake and Woodland. They really get up for those games.” Forest Lake Christian Last season: 5-12 (fourth in CVCL). Key returners: Misha Von Zboray (C), Molly Huusfeldt (SS), Tuesday: Foresthill at Forest Lake, 4 p.m. The momentum started building with a raw crop of freshmen last season. This year the Forest Lake Christian softball team appears ready to make the leap to league title contender. The Falcons (6-0, 2-0 CVCL) have already eclipsed their win total from 2008 and are early favorites for the CVCL crown. “We had a really strong freshman group come in last year and then another solid group this year,” coach Phil Sparling said. “We have good leadership now and good players. We still only have four upperclassmen, so we’re young.” The battery of sophomore pitcher Ariana Von Zboray and junior Misha Von Zboray give the Falcons a quality foundation. Forest Lake’s defense is much improved this season as well. Bethany Gamel has shined at third base. Freshman Olivia Taylor and Molly Huusfeldt have platooned with excellent results at shortsop and Mary Carlin plays second. Slugger Brittany Brown holds down first base. In the outfield, Amanda Sparling and Caitlin Claunch play left and center fields respectively. Megan Scoville and Emily Sidman share time in right field for the Falcons. Taylor, Huusfeldt and Brown have led the offensive attack for Forest Lake, which won its division at the Natomas tournament earlier this month. The Falcons will host crucial league contests against Vacaville Christian and Foresthill this week. “Our goal this year is to win league,” Sparling said. “Last year we were one game out of the playoffs and the girls have really developed.” Golden Sierra Last season: 17-6 (second in GEL). Key returners: Sarah Rasmussen (P), Molly Howard (2B), Shelby Briones (C) Tuesday: Golden Sierra at San Juan, 3:30 p.m. With its top three hitters from last season returning, the Golden Sierra High softball team definitely has players who can help manufacture runs. But like a factory foreman hoping for more production from his workers, Grizzlies coach Calvin Howard would like to see his players boost their numbers at the plate. “On offense, we need to get our bats up,” said Howard, whose team is 4-3 thus far this season. “If we hit the way we can hit, we can be right in there with anybody.” Six players are back from last year’s squad, which went 17-6 (8-2 in Golden Empire League play) and lost to eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI champion Le Grand in the postseason. Leading the returnees is sophomore pitcher Sarah Rasmussen, who was named the GEL’s MVP as a freshman last year. Rasmussen batted a team-high .585 with six home runs, 37 RBIs and 33 runs scored. Senior second baseman Molly Howard also belted six homers a year ago, batting .446 and scoring a team-high 38 times. Senior catcher Shelby Briones hit .415 with two homers and 15 RBIs for Golden Sierra last season. Also among the returnees are senior shortstop Sam Chiaratti and junior center fielder Jen Clough. Sophomore shortstop Kara Miller has been sidelined indefinitely by a shoulder injury, though Howard is hopeful she will return later this season. “That will affect our season for sure,” Howard said of Miller’s absence. Manning the corner infield spots are sophomore Emily Mathews at third base and freshman Jordan Perry at first. Flanking Clough in the outfield will be sisters Mandy Klein, a senior, and Kristin Klein, a sophomore. Rounding out the Grizzlies’ roster is junior utility player Aimee Lera. Howard expects his team to be in the thick of the GEL title race again this season along with Capital Christian, Lindhurst and Marysville. Golden Sierra finished second to Capital Christian last year, and the Cougars handed the Grizzlies their first league loss on Tuesday. “We’re strong up the middle, that’s for sure,” Howard said. “We’re a little young in the outfield and at the (infield) corners, but this is a strong team that we’ve put together.”