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New-look CHS confident
Softball team sets hopes on winning tradition
Ceres Highs varsity softball team returns several key players from last years Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III championship team, including senior pitcher Callie Nunes (pictured above). - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Callie Nunes starred at pitcher while helping Ceres High's varsity softball team end a 21-year drought between Sac-Joaquin Section titles last year.

The Bulldogs also won their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference crown.

Nunes will be counted upon even more in 2017.

"There's less room for error on my part," Callie said. "But it's not added pressure. There's extra motivation. Other teams believed Ceres isn't going to be good this year because we lost so many people. We're going to be good."

The Bulldogs are moving forward with a revamped roster as key players Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal, Mackenzie Veuve, Sabrina Baisdon and Jessica Arreola were lost to graduation.

Bates and O'Neal earned scholarships to NCAA Division-I Washington and Georgia, respectively.

Ceres High also has a new head coach. Ashley Nicolich replaced Angela Durossette, who stepped down to spend more time with her family.

"It was really sad to see those girls leave," Nunes said. "I was close to all of them. The entire atmosphere is different but not bad. It's not hard being a leader on this team. We all get along great."

The Bulldogs welcome back four players from last year's team: Nunes, Rayohna Sagapolu (Sr.), Andrea Duran (Jr.) and Shelby Veuve (Jr.).

Justice Diszney (Jr.), Karina Pulido (Jr.), Priscilla Chavez (So.), Chrystal Perales (So.), Branda Villalpando (So.) Rebecca DeLeon (Fr.), Vianney Perez (Fr.) and Bailey Showen (Fr.) are newcomers.

Nunes compiled an impressive 20-3 record this past season with a 1.14 ERA, 239 strikeouts, two no-hitters and 10 shutouts.

She was named WAC Pitcher of the Year.

Callie ranked first in conference play in wins (10), earned-run average (0.22) and no-hitters (2), and second in strikeouts (114).

Sagapolu earned first-team all-conference accolades her junior year.

She ranked first in the WAC in doubles (7), third in homers (2), RBIs (16) and on-base percentage (.562), fifth in runs (16) and slugging percentage (.809), and sixth in batting average (.500) and stolen bases (3).

"We have a lot of underclassmen on our team," Nunes said. "I want to make sure they feel welcome and a part of the team."

Ceres High's WAC schedule includes games against Central Valley, Livingston, Patterson, Los Banos and Pacheco.

The Bulldogs compiled a 23-5 overall record and won 11 of 12 conference games in 2016.

"My expectations are to win WAC and get to playoffs," Nunes said.

A model of consistency, Ceres High has made 29 postseason appearances in the past 31 years.

The Bulldogs will look to continue several streaks this spring.

Ceres High plans to secure its sixth straight playoff berth and fourth consecutive WAC championship.

"I do have high expectations for them," Nicolich said.