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1995 SOFTBALL PREVIEW : It's a Game of Speed : Foothill Likely Will Leave Opponents in the Dust

March 14, 1995|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's softball season, which means it's time to watch Foothill run. Like a Dick and Jane primer, it reads pretty simply.

"Watch Michelle Churnock get on base. Watch her steal second. Go, Michelle, go.

"See Lauren Bauer. Watch her bunt the ball. See it rolling down the third-base line. Roll, ball, roll. See Michelle on third base? Oops, Lauren just took second."

No team in Orange County has more speed or optimism than the Knights. They didn't lose a single player from last year's team to graduation. They lost their only senior during the campaign, when Amy Tessman quit without explanation at midseason.

Despite losing Tessman--one of the county's best pitchers--Foothill still reached the Division I championship game. How much better can it get than that?

Churnock had a fantastic year. Leading off for the Knights through the championship game against Marina, she batted .510 with 34 stolen bases and 36 runs scored.

Batting behind Churnock was center fielder Carley Rutledge, who hit .279 and stole eight bases.

Batting eighth was then-sophomore right fielder Marisa Holmes, who hit .170 and stole nine bases in 12 attempts.

Batting ninth was freshman left fielder Lauren Bauer, who hit .370 with 23 stolen bases.

All four bat left-handed. All are a year older and presumably a year better.

When you put them together, they make a pretty decent 400-meter relay team too. Without much practice--the softball season is concurrent with the track season--the Foothill Four competed as a team in the Century League track finals. They finished third, but were disqualified because of a baton exchange violation.

But they proved their point: They're very fast.

Add Foothill Flash

Foothill has always relied on speed and defense, and this season will be no different. But the Knights also have the potential for some power. An example of that might be the section quarterfinals, when Tara Lawrence drove a ball deep to right field for a two-run triple--and then deep to right-center for another two-run triple--off Los Alamitos pitcher Debbie Wilson (15-2) in a 7-4 upset of the second-seeded Griffins. Lawrence was batting .175 at the time with 10 strikeouts in 40 at-bats. Lawrence is a junior this year. There was one other triple in the game--by Robin Tessman, now a sophomore.

Goddu Sandwich

Just how good will softball be this year in Orange County? Six of the county's seven earned-run average leaders from last season are back. The only exception is Whittier Christian's Deborah Goddu, who was 8-8 with a 0.33 ERA during her senior year.

The four pitchers whose ERA during the regular season was lower than Goddu's are Pacifica's Toni Mascarenas (0.11), Ocean View's Kathy Ponce (0.20), Villa Park's Brandee McArthur (0.23) and Marina's Marcy Crouch (0.30).

Just behind Goddu are Sunny Hills' Jennifer Deane (0.36) and Kennedy's Lisa Pitt (0.37).

Mascarenas is a sophomore and Deane is a junior.

While We're on the Subject

Not included among the pitchers with the lowest ERAs in the county are Angie Fancuberta, who was 14-12 with a 0.62 ERA before pitching Fullerton to the Southern Section Division III title, and Foothill junior Marie Gieron, who was 9-4 with a 0.51 ERA before pitching Foothill into the Division I title game.

Players to Watch

Returning players who were on The Times All-County team last year are Stanford-bound Crouch, Marina first baseman Lynette Velazquez, Kennedy pitcher Lisa Pitt, Ocean View pitcher Kathy Ponce, Foothill shortstop Michelle Churnock, Los Alamitos shortstop Michelle Schneider (Stanford) and El Toro outfielder Dana Gulick.

Those second-team selections who are back are Mascarenas, McArthur (Pacific), Marina catcher Heather Williams (Michigan State), El Dorado shortstop Nikki Hart (Oregon State), Foothill outfielder Lauren Bauer, Fountain Valley outfielder Lindsey Collins, Aliso Niguel shortstop Stefanie Ruiz and Fountain Valley pitcher/second baseman Lynea Backlund (Iowa State).

Where They're Headed

There are other talented players who will earn athletic scholarships. They include Fountain Valley's Laurie Gillis (Northwestern), Orange Lutheran's Michelle Harrison (Southwest Texas State), Kelly Tom (Ohio State), Irvine's Shye Nakabayashi (Seton Hall), Los Alamitos' Amanda Peterson (Northwestern) and Jennifer Slaney (Fresno State), Sunny Hills' Megumi Takasaki (California) and Cypress' Julie Adams (UCLA).

Looking out for No. 1

For those looking for a little order in their lives:

1. Marina

2. Foothill

3. Pacifica

4. Kennedy

5. Fountain Valley

6. Ocean View

7. Woodbridge

8. Fullerton

9. Mater Dei

10. El Dorado

Teams on the cusp include Villa Park, Los Alamitos, Garden Grove and Cypress.

Young Guns . . . or Young 'uns

Mater Dei has four freshmen in the starting lineup, and Coach Doug Myers said it's a great class. Among those who could prove to be freshman phenoms are catcher Courtney Ryan and shortstop Robin Walker.

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