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Tradition-rich CHS softball team competing under direction of new head coach
Nicole Bates and Ceres Highs varsity softball team won all 12 of their Western Athletic Conference games last season. Bates and the Bulldogs are favored to repeat as league champions this year.

Donnie Donaldson re-established a winning tradition in softball at Ceres High School.

The Bulldogs posted a 139-77 overall record, qualified for the postseason six times and won two league titles during his coaching tenure from 2007-14.

Ceres High placed fourth in the section playoffs the past three years.

The Bulldogs will compete under the direction of a new leader this spring. Angela Durossette, Donaldson's successor, inherits a program loaded with talent.

"They're expected to win no matter who the coach is," Durossette said. "We want to try to get better every game. Our motto this year is, ‘Why not us?'"

Third-year standouts Nicole Bates and Mahlena O'Neal will lead the way.

Bates, O'Neal and fellow juniors Mackenzie Veuve, Sabrina Baisdon and Jessica Arreola earned roster spots at the varsity level as freshmen.

Bates was voted Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player her sophomore year.

Nicole hit .511 with three homers, two triples, four doubles, 19 RBIs, 22 runs, five stolen bates and a .872 fielding percentage.

O'Neal was selected to the WAC First Team.

Mahlena batted .641 with two doubles, 16 RBIs, five runs and a 1.000 fielding percentage.

Bates and O'Neal verbally committed to Washington and Georgia, respectively.

Veuve was named to the WAC Second Team.

Mackenzie hit .472 with two homers, three doubles, seven RBIs, nine runs and one stolen base.

Baisdon and Arreola were honorable-mention picks.

Sabrina hit .410 with two triples, four doubles, 11 RBIs, 10 runs and one stolen base.

Jessica hit .464 with two doubles, one RBI and 16 runs.

Rayohna Sagapolu (So.) will be counted upon heavily for the second straight season.

Rayohna hit .514 with one homer, three triples, one double, 12 RBIs, 11 runs and one stolen base her freshman year.

She compiled a 6-0 record with a 0.42 ERA and 40 strikeouts while splitting time on the mound with 2014 WAC Pitcher of the Year Kaytlin Donaldson, who transferred to Waterford High School.

Sagapolu and varsity newcomer Callie Nunes (So.) will share pitching duties this year.

Nunes made a verbal commitment to Concordia University.
"Both of them are dominant," Durossette said. "That's my expectation."

Other Bulldog newbies expected to contribute are Ariel Knights (Jr.) and Andrea Duran (Fr.)

"We have a lot of experience," Durossette said. "We have good chemistry. The girls are very positive. I like that a lot. They want to be successful. They also want to have fun."

Ceres High (21-6, 12-0) won the WAC championship with an unblemished record last season. The Bulldogs placed fourth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships.

"We'd like to go undefeated in league again," Durossette said. "That's what we're shooting for. It's an attainable goal."

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

Pacheco has one of the top pitchers in the Stanislaus District Gia Rodoni, who signed a national letter of intent with Division-I Baylor University.

Kristen Ghimenti, crosstown-rival Central Valley's head coach, was a standout pitcher with the Bulldogs.

"We're rebuilding with a lot of new girls," said Ghimenti, 2014 WAC Coach of the Year. "They all have good attitudes. The versatility of this team is nice. We got options. We're at least two deep in every spot."

Central Valley's top returners are Lindsey Alexander (Sr.), Lynaya Lerma (Sr.) and Yescenia Godinez (Jr.)
Alexander, Lerma and Godinez were all promoted to varsity as freshmen.

"They're our three main leaders," Ghimenti said.
Alyssa Costa (Jr.) and Gabriela Bonales (So.) also returned to the team.

Central Valley's top newcomers are Jessica Alvarez (Jr.), Jadah Jackson (Jr.), Autianna Baxter (Fr.) and Nayeli Pelayo (Fr.).

Alvarez will replace Lexy Cordova, Central Valley's starting pitcher for the last four years.

"She has experience," Ghimenti said. "She pitched for JV last year. I think she'll do fine. She wants to learn and get better."

The Hawks compiled a 9-9 overall record and finished in fourth place in the WAC standings (5-7) in 2014.

Central Valley struggled to a 3-9 record in conference play in 2013.

The Hawks had a 1-11 mark in 2012. "My goal is to always improve from the year before," Ghimenti said. "We were in the running for a playoff berth last season until the last three games. I'm excited to see how we're going to do this year."