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Central Valley High School softball team has nowhere to go but up
Ceres High School looking to continue its winning tradition
Lexy Cordova will play a major role while trying to guide Central Valley to its first-ever playoff berth this season. She earned second-team, all-league honors last season. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Central Valley High School's varsity softball team tripled its win total from the previous season in 2013.

The Hawks compiled a 3-9 record on their way to a sixth-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings.

"The expectation is to always do better," head coach Kristen Ghimenti said. "Ultimately, we want to win league and go into playoffs."

The Hawks bring back the core of last year's squad: Lexy Cordova (Sr., P/1B/OF), Sarah McElroy (Sr., 2B/P/SS), Mia Lorenzo (Sr., SS/C), Nicholette Mendez (Sr., OF), Lynaya Lerma (Jr., 3B/SS/1B) and Lindsey Alexander (Jr., 1B/2B/OF).

Jasmine Henson (Sr. OF), Alejandra Paz (Jr., OF), Alyssa Costa (So., 1B), Yescenia Godinez (So., C/2B/OF), Julia Ramsey (So., 1B/OF), Gaby Bonales (Fr., OF) and Carmen Sanchez (Fr., OF) also earned roster spots on the team.

Lorenzo and Cordova both earned second-team, all-conference honors a year ago.

Mia batted .341 with 10 RBIs.
Lexy hit .262 with 14 RBIs.

Cordova was the Hawks' main pitcher.

McElroy, Central Valley's other hurler, was relegated to second base due to an elbow injury.

Central Valley, 1-11 in 2012, finished ahead of Pacheco (2-10) in conference play last season.

Central Catholic (12-0), Ceres High (8-4), Los Banos (8-4), Patterson (5-7) and Livingston (4-8) took first, second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Hawks beat Pacheco twice and Livingston once.

Central Valley lost 3-2 and 10-7 to Patterson, and 6-3 to Los Banos.

Central Catholic, Ceres High and Los Banos qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

"We've always had talent," Ghimenti said. "They're a lot more focused this year."

Central Valley has yet to experience a breakthrough season in softball.

The Hawks, 0-14 all-time versus the crosstown-rival Bulldogs, started competing at the varsity level in 2007.
Central Valley won three of four games on its way to a runner-up finish in Pool E at the Ceres High tournament, staged March 5-8 at Rainbow Fields.

Ceres High's youth-laden varsity softball squad fell two wins shy of advancing to the championship game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV postseason tournament in 2013.

The Bulldogs, competing with a lineup that featured six freshmen and one sophomore, placed fourth in the section for the second year in a row.

"We were young last year," head coach Donnie Donaldson said. "The girls were learning how to play varsity softball. There was a lot of pressure. They have experience under their belts now. They're more confident and comfortable."

Ceres High returns 10 players from last season, including Nicole Bates (So., SS), Mahlena O'Neal (So., C/3B), Mackenzie Veuve (So., 3B/1B), Kaytlin Donaldson (So., 1B/P), Jessica Arreola (So., 2B/UTL), Sabrina Baisdon (So., OF), Megan McCormick (Jr., 3B/OF), Camrynn Broumas (Sr., 2B/OF), Mikayla Whatley (Sr., OF) and Izabel Saldana (Sr., 1B/C).

Ali Lowman (Jr., P/OF), Kinsey Ward (Jr., C/OF), Cameron Diaz (Jr., OF), Rayohna Sagapolu (Fr., P/1B), Callie Nunes (So., P/OF) and Breanne De Leon (Sr., OF) are newcomers.

"We have a strong core of young girls that have bonded quickly," coach Donaldson said. "Everybody in my lineup except for one player has hit the ball over the fence in a travel ball or high school game. They all have home-run power. We have a really good defense and strong pitching staff, too."

Bates, O'Neal, Veuve and Donaldson garnered first-team, all-Western Athletic Conference recognition last year.
Nicole batted .467 with three homers, seven triples, three doubles, 42 runs, 14 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.

Mahlena batted .488 with three homers, three triples, eight doubles, 13 runs and 28 RBIs. She threw out 15 of 20 base runners on steal attempts.

Mackenzie batted .380 with four homers, 11 doubles, 14 runs and 31 RBIs. She compiled a 10-5 record with two shutouts, eight complete games, one save and 69 strikeouts at pitcher.

Kaytlin batted .306 with one homer, seven doubles, 17 runs and 26 RBIs. She posted an 8-5 record with two no-hitters, eight complete games and 44 strikeouts on the mound.

Lowman, Ward and Diaz helped lead the JV Bulldogs to an 18-3 overall record and first-place finish in the WAC standings (9-1).

Ali had an impressive 16-3 record with 156 strikeouts and just 17 walks.

She batted .493 with three triples, five doubles and 30 runs.

Kinsey batted .241 with one homer, one triple, one double and 15 runs.

Cameron batted .209 with one homer, one triple and 17 runs.

Donaldson, Lowman and Sagapolu make up Ceres High's pitching staff.

"Rayohna throws really hard," Donnie Donaldson said. "Kaytlin and Ali both hit spots and move the ball around. We'll have fresh arms."

Ceres High finished 19-12 overall and second in the Western Athletic Conference standings (8-4) in 2013. The Bulldogs competed against 10 playoff teams during the regular season, including eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V champion Hughson. Ceres High also battled D-IV winner Sierra, Central Catholic, Los Banos, Enochs, Gregori, Tokay, West, Calaveras and Merced.

"A successful season to me is winning the WAC," coach Donaldson said. "We also want to advance in the playoffs. I'd love to get to the championship game. They're motivated to get there. They've put in a lot of work. This group of kids wants to bring a section banner back to Ceres."