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CHS softball to rely on talent, experience
Freshman Brianna Quiroz will be the Central Valley High School varsity softball teams main pitcher this season. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

A model of consistency, Ceres High's varsity softball program has made 28 Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearances in the past 30 years.

The 2016 Bulldogs will rely on a host of talent and experience as they try to secure their fifth consecutive postseason berth and third straight Western Athletic Conference crown.

"That is our goal," said Angela Durossette, Ceres High's second-year head coach. "Hopefully, everybody can stay healthy and hot at the same time."

Promoted to varsity as freshmen in 2013, seniors Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal, Mackenzie Veuve , Jessica Arreola and Sabrina Baisdon will team up for the final time.

"We're so close," O'Neal said. "We know each other's swings. We help each other make adjustments. We pick each other up."

Bates, a standout hitter and shortstop who earned a scholarship to the University of Washington, was selected to the 2016 USA TODAY High School Sports Preseason Softball Team.

She put up impressive numbers during her junior year.

Nicole batted .518 with three homers, seven triples, 14 doubles, 27 RBIs, 51 runs and 14 stolen bases.

She was voted WAC Offensive Player of the Year.

She ranked first in the conference in batting average (.521), slugging percentage (.875), on-base percentage (.558), doubles (7) and runs (24), second in homers (2), triples (2) and RBIs (17), and third in stolen bases (6).

Bates was selected to the 2015 FloSoftball All-American First Team. Nicole was named to the MaxPreps and Cal-Hi Sports all-state teams as well.

University of Georgia bound O'Neal will star on offense and at catcher.

Mahlena earned first-team, all-WAC accolades the past three seasons.

She ranked first in league in homers (3), RBIs (20) and fielding percentage (1.000), third in triples (1) and doubles (4), fourth in slugging percentage (.733), and eighth in batting average (.400) and runs (9) her junior year.

"It's fun watching them (Bates and O'Neal)," Durossette said. "They're both talented. They're gifted and they practice. Obviously, they've put in a lot of hours."

Veuve, Ceres High's first baseman, received second-team all-conference accolades last spring.

Mackenzie ranked first in the WAC in fielding percentage (1.000), second in homers (2), fourth in three doubles (3), fifth in RBIs (13), sixth in runs (11) and 14th in batting average (.333).

Arreola was an honorable-mention pick.

Jessica batted .281 with one double, seven RBIs, nine runs and one stolen base.

Arreola switched defensive positons. She'll start in right field instead of at second base.

Baisdon batted .263 with one double, seven RBIs, six runs and two stolen bases.

Other Bulldog returners expected to contribute include Rayohna Sagapolu (Jr.), Callie Nunes (Jr.), Adryana Knights (Sr.), Andrea Duran (So.) and Shelby Veuve (So.).

Natalia Cortez (Jr.) and Raimee Mendoza (Jr.) are new to the team.

Sagapolu, a third baseman and pitcher, was selected to the WAC First Team as a sophomore.

Rayohna ranked second in the WAC in homers (2) and runs (16), third in doubles (4), fourth in RBIs (15), fifth in stolen bases (3) and batting average (.449), and sixth in slugging percentage (.653).

She compiled a 4-1 record with a 0.58 ERA, 45 strikeouts and four complete games on the mound. She allowed just three earned runs in 36 innings.

Nunes received second-team all-conference accolades.

Callie posted a 6-1 record at pitcher with a 0.00 ERA, 65 strikeouts and four complete games in 382/3 innings. All seven of the runs Nunes allowed were unearned. She had a 1.000 fielding percentage.

She batted .310 with one double, three RBIs, eight runs and two stolen bases.

Duran batted .200 with two RBIs and five runs.

She'll start at second base this year.

Rayohna and Callie made verbal commitments to San Jose State and Concordia University, respectively.

"We have two, No. 1 pitchers," O'Neal said. "They complement each other well."

Ceres High tied for fifth place with a 2-2 record in the Division-III playoff tournament last year. The Bulldogs went 22-9 overall and won 10 of 12 conference games.

Ceres High has claimed three titles during its five seasons in the WAC.

"We have really high expectations," O'Neal said. "We got solid hitters. We have a solid defense. This is the best chance we've had at winning sections. It's going to take leadership, hustle and selflessness."

Crosstown-rival Central Valley will be led by Nayeli Pelayo (So.) and Gabriela Bonales (Jr.).

Pelayo was named to the WAC Second Team as a freshman.

The standout catcher batted .324 with one homer, seven RBIs, one run and one stolen base.

Bonales, Central Valley's leftfielder, was an honorable-mention selection.

Gabriela batted .278 with one homer, one triple, two doubles, four RBIs and six runs.

Yescenia Godinez (Sr.), Autianna Baxter (So.),Bryana Lopez (Sr.), Cheyenne Brincat (Jr.), Marissa Camarillo (Jr.), Danielle Haro (Jr.), Adria Robinson (Jr.), Alyssa Maeyama (Fr.), Megan McElory (Fr.), Chrystal Perales (Fr.) and Brianna Quiroz (Fr.) round out Central Valley's roster.

Godinez and Baxter are returning varsity players.

Lopez, Brincat, Camarillo, Haro, Robinson, Maeyama, McElroy, Perales and Quiroz are newcomers.

Brincat, Camarillo, Robinson competed at the JV level last season.

The Hawks amassed a 9-39 record in conference play under head coach Kristen Ghimenti's guidance from 2012-2015.

Central Valley lost all 12 of its games en route to a last-place finish in the 2015 WAC standings.

The Hawks enjoyed their best season to date in 2014. Fourth-place Central Valley had a 5-7 mark as Ghimenti was voted WAC Coach of the Year.

The Hawks went 3-9 in 2013 and 1-11 in 2012.