As one of the strongest teams not only in Northern Nevada, but in the entire country, the Reed Raiders return as the favorite to win the Northern region softball crown and to defend their state title.
While the Raiders took home a slew of accolades to end last season, (eight of their returning athletes received Northern Division I honors ranging from Most Valuable Player to all-league honorable mention) they understand that other squads in the region aren’t going to lay down the red carpet for Reed to romp to another title.
“On paper we’re destined to have a good season, but the girls know we have a target on our back,” Reed coach Jon Wunder said. “So the team knows we have to work harder to accomplish our goals.”
Here is a look at the Northern Division I softball teams:
Coach: Brittney Hubbard, second season
Record last year: 9-13
Key Returners: Senior utility player, Brittany Parson; sophomore infielder, Maddie Miramon; junior pitcher Ally Young; junior utility player, Emma Covert
Key Losses: Brianne Hrtiz
Outlook: Brittney Hubbard, the reigning coach of the year in the North, will look to guide Damonte to more improvement.
“Last year was a transitional year for us all so it’ll be fun to get more comfortable out there together and I think the girls can do awesome things,” Hubbard said.
She has the luxury of building off of last season with seven all-league players returning. Hubbard said many leaders have stepped up.
“We’ve just been working through the kinks from last year and they’re starting to buy in more,” Hubbard said. “We have a very motivated group of girls and I think everyone is starting to come together more as a team.”
Hubbard will lean on senior utility player Brittany Parson and junior Emma Covert, two of the many leaders on Damonte. Sophomore Maddie Miramon will also bolster the Mustangs’ lineup after knocking in a team-high six home runs last year.
Coach: Dave Hargrove, 12th season
Record last year: 15-7 league
Key Returners: Senior catcher, Jules Curry; sophomore infielder Bailey McLaughlin; freshman pitcher Maggie Joseph; junior infielder Megan Lawson
Key Losses: Kolbi Tonini, Alex Day and Sammi Tallman
Outlook: The Miners finished sixth in the North last season, and advanced to the Northern Region championship before falling to Reed. Hargrove is optimistic about his team’s chances after they built up substantial momentum last year
The Miners will have to do some rebuilding as they lost two all-region outfielders and a first-team all-region selection in Kolbi Tonini. Despite those subtractions, Manogue has an arsenal of young guns.
Transfer third baseman/catcher Bailey McLaughlin is verbally committed to Oregon State and Hargrove said the Miners have four to six girls who will play at the next level. “We’re a young team but this is the most talent I have had in 12 years of coaching,” Hargrove said.
Coach: Shane Quilling, second season
Record last year: 3-19 league
Key Returners: Senior infielder Bailey Allen; sophomore pitcher Lauren Lemberg; sophomore outfielder Camille Simpson
Key Losses: Brittany Baily and Sara Runge
Outlook: As one of the youngest teams in Northern Nevada last season, the Senators were consistently thumped on, but will look to turn things around. Carson is led by first-team all-league infielder Bailey Allen who led the team in RBIs, runs scored and knocked in eight triples last season. Allen will be joined by a pair of underclassmen who were all-league honorable mention, Lauren Lemberg and Camille Simpson.
The Senators have a tough hill to climb, but with a slew of returnees, things might not be as rocky as last season’s 3-19 league finish.
Quilling’s squad has been down for some time, but he put the emphasis on his players to bring it back to contention.
Coach: Rob Parks, third season
Record last year: 15-7 league
Key Returners: Senior infielder Allison Meyer; junior infielder, Corryne Diaz; senior outfielder, Shaena Robinson; sophomore outfielder Mackenzie Brixey
Key Losses: Kali Sargent, Leonna Mortimer and Madison Parks.
Outlook: The Tigers lost a lot of talent from last season’s team that went 15-7 in league, 23-13 overall. Douglas lost No. 1 pitcher and hitter in Kali Sargent and three other all-league selections, Leona Mortimer, Nicole Dunn and Madison Parks.
The core of the team is returning and will be spearheaded by first team all-league infielder Allison Meyer. Meyer is committed to play at George Fox University next season and will be joined by junior third baseman Corryne Diaz who was injured most of last season, senior centerfielder Shaena Robinson and sophomore leadoff batter Mackenzie Brixey.
Parks said the team’s makeup will be a lot different from previous seasons.
“Last year we relied a lot on Kali’s pitching to get us out of jams,” Parks said. “So this year we’re going to look to score a lot of runs and still have a good hitting team, but because we don’t have as much varsity pitching we’re going to have a lot of shootouts this season.”
Parks said it will be a different season than what he is used to with the new pitching staff, but he is still optimistic about his team’s chances to make the postseason for the third consecutive year.
Coach: Mike Reid, first season
Record last year: 10-12 league
Key Returners: Senior catcher Devon Casazza; senior infielder, Nicole Renner; senior infielder, Alyssa Martinez; senior infielder Shelby Harris
Key Losses: Aubrey Slocum
Outlook: Reid enters his first season as the head coach of the Grizzlies, but he has a plethora of softball and athletic experience since he graduated from high school in 1966. Prior to Galena, Reid was the vice president of the Northern Nevada Softball Officials Association, the Nevada high school state rules interpreter and also played three sports during his time at the University of Nevada, Reno. Reid will be presiding over a veteran lineup — Galena returns seven all-league selections — that includes senior Devon Casazza, who was an all-state catcher last year and offered a full-ride scholarship to UConn, which she will sign in April. Of the eight seniors, seven will be playing in college. Reid had a hard time penciling in his most outstanding seniors since he feels that each brings something to the table and that he is also proud of his team’s GPA, which is above 3.75.
Joining Reid on the Galena coaching staff is Alexa Youngberg who graduated from Galena and has played for the Wolf Pack softball team and is “ball of fire” according to Reid who also feels the Grizzlies can take the next step in 2016.
“We have a very experienced group of girls and I feel we are as strong as anybody at the plate,” Reid said. “I walked into a really special situation and I can’t describe how wonderful this group of girls are and what a terrific situation we have at Galena.”
Coach: Heather Lee, first season
Record last year: 0-20 league
Key Returners: Junior utility player Mia Ferro; senior infielder Angie Murillo
Key Losses: Lelani Muao, Elsa Frias
Outlook: Hug is another team that comes with a new coaching staff. Lee enters her first year as coach of the Hawks and is a Hug High graduate (1994). Lee coached at Reno last season and also has had stints with Galena and was the head coach of North Valleys in 2003 and 2004. She is joined by Ona Malosky (another Hug alumnus, 1996) and Jamie Popovich (who played for Lee at North Valleys). Lee will have a lot of rebuilding to do as the Hawks lost two all-league honorable mention players in Lelani Muao and also Elsa Frias. The Hawks only have four returning players.
Nonetheless, Lee believes that her coaching staff can turn things around.
“Our vision is to come in and change the culture here,” Lee said. “We want the girls to believe in themselves more and we’ll surprise some people this year by winning a couple of league games, which we haven’t done in a long time.”
Coach: Amanda Ellison, third season as head coach
Record last year: 11-11 league
Key Returners: Senior shortstop Sadaria McAllister; senior infielder Haley Stevenson; senior pitcher Emily Mitchell; senior centerfielder Bayley Miller
Key Losses: Jaqui Martinez
Outlook: The Lancers could make a run into the playoffs based off their handful of standouts from last year. Senior Sadaria McAlister headlines the lineup, she was named the offensive player of the year the last two seasons and is going to Nevada to play softball. The Lancers feature a handful of other players who are going to play in college. Second team all-league pitcher Emily Mitchell has a verbal commitment to Willamette University in Oregon and Bayley Miller is also verbally committed to Willamette. Junior Jesse Blanton is the new starting catcher and is taking over for the departed Jaqui Martinez.
Ellison was a player for the last McQueen team to win state in 2006. This is her fifth season coaching in total with the softball programs at McQueen.
“Our goal is just to really come together as a team and this is a year we have been working for,” Ellison said. “We just need to execute with the talent we have and just be able to come together in the playoffs.”
Coach: Jimmy Gleich, first season
Record last year: 9-13 league
Key Returners: Ashley Nicholson, Caitlyn Wood, Jamie Romero.
Key Losses: Baleigh McCuskey and Bailee Glover
Outlook: Gleich takes over a program that has a handful of athletes going to play at the next level after their time in the Panthers’ black and teal. Ashley Nicholson (University of Dallas-Texas), Caitlyn Wood (Embry-Riddle, Arizona) and Jamie Romero (Feather River College) have all been offered to play in college, but only Wood was named as an all-league pick last season.
Gleich will have his hands full as he has to replace one of the best pitchers, Bailee Glover, and also find a new identity for his squad.
Coach: Jon Wunder, sixth season as head coach
Record last year: 20-2 league
Key Returners: Junior pitcher Julia Jensen; junior outfielder Jessica Sellers; senior outfielder Alysha Imperato; senior shortstop Kenzi Goins
Key Losses: Cassy Walsh and Leah Pingle
Outlook: The odds-on favorite to repeat this year as state champions, the Raiders are returning eight players ranging from MVP (Jensen) to honorable mentions. Even though Reed has had tremendous success the last couple of years (last season was the Raiders’ third regional title in a row and they were nine outs away from winning state in 2014), Wunder is pressing his team to stay focused.
“I challenge them each day to improve on those areas of weakness as individuals to help the team reach its ultimate goal,” Wunder said. “We appreciate everyone thinking we’re the team to beat, but in softball you can get beat on any given day.”
Jensen is the linchpin of the Raiders and for good reason. She was 34-2 overall last year and was named a preseason All-American by MaxPreps and USA Today after notching 346 strikeouts and 34 wins last season. Jensen is verbally committed to Nevada and could potentially join teammates Jessica Sellers — who was the RGJ’s 2014 Division I All-North softball player of the year — and Kenzi Goins as members of the Wolf Pack. The sixth-year head coach has remained grounded in the Raiders’ quest for a second consecutive title.
“There are a lot of talented teams out there, so we’re going to have to bring our best game every day in order to win,” Wunder said.
Coach: Jim Pace, 10th season
Record last year: 15-7 league
Key Returners: Senior pitcher Morgan Eisele; senior pitcher Christie Betker; sophomore outfielder Alexia Young; senior pitcher Kylee Spencer
Key Losses: Raelani Kerr
Outlook: Reno was the No. 3 seed at Regionals last season. The Huskies will have a veteran squad as they have 12 returners (including seven seniors) and junior Dominique Harding will be returning after blowing her knee out during basketball preseason of last year. Pace has his sights set on some big goals.
“I have high expectations for this group and our ultimate goal is to get a berth to state since it’s up here this year,” Pace said. “This is the most pitching I’ve ever had as we have three quality pitchers that I don’t have a problem throwing out there.”
He also indicated that another strength will be their batting lineup, something the Huskies struggled with last year. “So far in practice I’ve been pleasantly surprised with our offense,” Pace said. “Last year our offense was pretty weak, but it seems like it’s night and day to this year how much more offensive we are.”
He acknowledged that for his all-league senior pitchers Morgan Eisele, Christie Betker and Kylee Spencer to be effective, the offense has to keep up.
“We had an opportunity last year to win every game based on our pitching,” Pace said.
Coach: Frank Avilla, 15th season
Record last year: 10-14 league
Key Returners: Senior pitcher/infielder Marissa Coleman; senior infielder Devin Gonzalez; junior catcher Angie Ruiz
Key Losses: Jocelyn Vasquez and Sarah Hanson
Outlook: Marissa Coleman will lead the charge for the Railroaders after she knocked in 12 home runs last year and fielded close to .950 as a shortstop. Coleman will look to take on a bigger role as a pitcher and is a true leader according to Avilla. Joining Coleman is third baseman Devin Gonzalez who will be a two-year varsity starter. One of the younger players, sophomore utility player/pitcher Riley Nelson, had an ERA a little above 2.70 last year and will be leaned on heavily to develop. Angie Ruiz is a three-year varsity player.
The Railroaders lost captain in Jocelyn Vasquez who is now playing at Lassen Junior College and pitched nearly every inning her sophomore and junior years. They also lost Sarah Hanson who was a four-year varsity player.
“I just love to see the kids mature as athletes,” Avilla said. “We have a full roster now and we’re taking girls that have never played and turning them into softball players so we feel this group is going to do well as we go along.”
Coach: Jeff Davidson, 11th season
Record last year: 20-2 league
Key Returners: Senior pitcher Hayley Fein; senior utility player Bailey Ivory; sophomore infielder/outfielder Katelyn Townsend; senior catcher Kourtney Townsend
Key Losses: Autumn Alexander; Alyssa Batastini; Vanessa Almario
Outlook: One of the favorites to knock Reed off its perch, Spanish Springs will have a greener lineup than in previous years.
“I’m excited for the start of the season and we’re looking forward to it being a great year,” Davidson said. “Most of the teams (in the region) have just about their entire rosters back and we lost some key players, but we’re looking forward to the development of the younger players.”
Davidson knows about producing great softball players. His teams have won four regional titles, three state titles, was state runner-up once and helped to develop future Wolf Pack players Mallary Darby, Karlyn Jones and Karley Hopkins. He has a talented crop of players this year as Hayley Fein is going to Cal State Monterey Bay and Bailey Ivory is looking at an Ivy League school. The five seniors are all set to play at the next level.
“We have a young team, but our seniors have stepped up a lot this year with the development of the younger players on the team,” Davidson said. “Every year is different and this season’s team is unique in its own way so it’s going to be fun to see how it plays out.”
Coach: Dave Hendrix, third season
Record last year: 5-17 league
Key Returners: Senior Erica Handegard; junior pitcher/infielder Jordan Gross; senior outfielder/infielder Lauren Lutsch
Key Losses: Charlee Thompson, Huntyr Sullivan
Outlook: Hendrix said the Colts are on the cusp of returning to the postseason.
“This year with our program, we need to take every game like it’s tournament ball,” Hendrix said. “The last couple of years we have missed the postseason by a game or two.”
Hendrix said the Colts have the athletes who can be solid at the top of the lineup and that the difference this year is that the team has greater speed and better athletes. He also placed a strong emphasis on starting the season strong as opposed to making a late push that falls short.
The headliner is senior Erica Handegard who is going to play at Mercy College in the fall. The Colts lost second team all-league catcher Charlee Thompson along with honorable mention player Huntyr Sullivan to graduation, but will have a squad with a solid veteran core.