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The Los Angeles Times 1997 ALL-VALLEY Softball Team

Time Is Right for Giordano


SAUGUS — Her style of play has been electrifying for the past three years, and it always seemed Nicole Giordano would be a lock for this award when her time came.

It has come, as Giordano is The Times' Valley player of the year.

In leading Saugus to its fourth Foothill League softball championship in a row and a second consecutive semifinal game in the Southern Section Division II playoffs, Giordano became more than a player with astronomical statistics.

"Nicole was a coach on the field and a little mother out there," Coach Ron Hilton said.

Giordano, a senior, was the undisputed leader of a young team. With three freshmen in the starting lineup, the Centurions (25-6) far exceeded their own expectations.

They struggled early, losing five of their first 17 games. That's when Giordano decided the veterans and rookies needed to bond.

"We just gave our freshmen a lot of confidence," Giordano said. "We started taking them aside in games and in practice and talked to them. If they made a bad play, we told them to shake it off. If they made a good play, we said, 'Good job.' "

To get an idea how much Giordano has meant to Saugus over the past four seasons, the team has a record of 102-18 during that span. Saugus won the 1996 Division II title.

Giordano has never considered herself a pitcher, but Hilton pressed her into the role full time this year after three-year standout Jamie Gillies graduated. Giordano responded with a 0.48 earned-run average and a 25-6 record to give her a 34-6 mark in her career.

Giordano was the region's premier leadoff hitter. She batted under .490 once--as a freshman--and she scored 125 runs. Her career average is .472, a school record.

This year, she finished with a .580 average, 51 hits and 40 runs, all career highs. She set school records for hits and runs in a season.

Giordano also holds the team record with her 132 career stolen bases, including a record 51 in 1996. She had 50 this season.

"She is the best athlete I've ever coached, bar none," said Hilton, who has coached football 17 years at Saugus.

"I think he means I'm the one who wants to win the most, and I'm into the team," Giordano said. "I've made plays that really shock him. And I can play any position he puts me."

Giordano, who has a full scholarship to Arizona, has captured all-league at three different positions the past three seasons: center field, shortstop and pitcher. She expects to return to center field at Arizona.

The Wildcats, who have won five NCAA championships since 1991 while building their teams around speed, can't go wrong with Giordano, who has been caught stealing only three times the past two seasons. Giordano has been known to surprise umpires with her quickness. Case in point: an umpire apologized to Giordano after giving her the thumb in a 6-5 nonleague loss to Hart this season.

Said Giordano: "He said to me, 'Sorry, I made a bad call.' "

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