Lady Tigers built on youth | RecordCourier.com

Lady Tigers built on youth

by Joey Crandall

One would think with three returning all-leaguers and seven returning starters that the focus heading into the year would be on the veteran depth.

But after placing third in the Sierra League last season, the Douglas High School softball team will be counting on a strong youth movement this season to provide an extra spark.

Andy Mitchell, Douglas’ fifth head coach in as many years, heads into the yearwith four seniors and seven underclassmen.

“We are pretty young overall,” he said. “But we have some very strong players.”

Leading the way will be returning first-team All-Sierra League honorees Lauren Hoppe and Tisha Luken.

Hoppe, a junior, has earned first-team honors in each of her first two seasons in the outfield.

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“Lauren will definitely be the anchor out there,” Mitchell said. “She has a real strong arm and a very strong bat. She’ll be a leader in the lineup.”

Luken, heading into her fourth season at the varsity level, had a breakout year last season at shortstop and will be expected to hold down the left side of the infield this season.

Sophomore Stepanie Harper, who compiled a 5-4 record in the circle last year with two no-hitters, will carry the pitching load this year and freshman Emily Weaver is expected to bring a strong bat to the top of the lineup. Outside of that, there will be a lot of open competition for starting spots throughout the season.

“We have big expectations for Stephanie,” Mitchell said. “She’s had a lot of experience, not just in high school but also in tournament ball.

“Emily may end up being one of the better players in the north. She’ll be a real strong hitter and will start at third, although she and Tisha could be interchangable at either of those spots. She’s a heads-up player and is outstanding on the base paths.”

At catcher, returning second-team all-leaguer Kayla Moore will be joined by freshman Katrina Morgan.

“Katrina will be one of our better hitters and we could break her out at a number of infield positions if needed,” Mitchell said. “She has a real good head for the game.”

Douglas is guaranteed to have a new face at first base, whether it be Chloe Trudell, a sophomore who was called up to varsity for the playoffs last year, or sophomore Mackenzie Cauley.

Cauley, along with Weaver and sparkplug second baseman Donna Judd, add an influx of left-handed bats to the Tiger lineup.

“Mackenzie had great speed and is more of a power hitter,” Mitchell said. “She gives us a lot of flexibility.

Judd and senior Morgan Barone should each see time at second, while Barone may also see time in left field.

Sophomore Marina Diaz and Barone will be battling for that left field spot.

“Marina has always been an infielder, but she is another strong bat and we want to try to find a spot for her in the lineup whenever we can.”

In right field, seniors Angella Stephenson and Nicole LaPorte will compete for time with Mackenzie Cauley.

“Angella is lightning quick,” Mitchell said. “She definitely has the ability to be used as a pinch runner if she is not in the starting lineup.”

LaPorte has seen starting time in each of the last two seasons as well.

Junior Dorothy Sliva will back Harper up at pitcher.

“Dorothy is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever coached in any sport,” Mitchell said. “She was probably the No. 3 starter at JV last year, but she’s put a lot of time in and we’ll look to her a lot this season.”

Douglas opened its season Thursday at the Tournament of Champions in Sacramento.

“It’s been a pretty steep learning curve,” said Mitchell, who was hired in November. “I was hoping to get some non-league games scheduled against some High Desert teams, but there just wasn’t time.

“Our primary focus is going to be on fundamentals and then we’ll shift more into position work. Sacramento will be a tough test because there will be 48 very good teams there. Once we can settle in, we should improve quickly.”

— Joey Crandall can be reached at jcrandall@recordcourier.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.