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1998 SOFTBALL PREVIEW

Freeway League

March 10, 1998

* Buena Park: 11-14, 1-9 in 1997. Coach: Brenda Sapp (ninth year, 75-96-2). Prospects: The Coyotes may be really hurt by the graduation of three-year pitcher Alicia Davison (10-14, 0.43 ERA), their only first-team all-league pick. Returning this season are two sophomores: second baseman Lolani Alvarez and Stephanie Beltran, who will take over pitching duties. Beltran, a smart pitcher, should take advantage of Buena Park's best defense in years. Sapp needs offensive production from a few key players, including senior Datosha Williams, a corner infielder. Freshman shortstop Carra Cook is going to bat third and appears to be the offensive anchor of the future. The Coyotes have more quickness than in recent years, and for the first time have some depth in the infield.

* Fullerton: 4-22, 1-9 in 1997. Coach: Paula Dobrowolski (second year, 4-22). Prospects: Fullerton's strength is its defense, and that's got to be a comfort to sophomore pitcher Katie Hall. Behind her will be returning starters Charlene Aguilera in right field, utility players Carrie Cohen and Kim Vanderstaay--both sophomores--and third baseman Rachel Gray. Jill Pisani, a junior first baseman, missed most of last season with an injury.

* La Habra: 21-7, 10-0 in 1997. Coach: Sue Briquelet (seventh year, 118-43). Prospects: After winning 21 games, the Highlanders suffered an embarrassing loss in the first round of the Division III playoffs, falling to Brea Olinda, 6-0. Six starters are back, including the county's best hitter, left-handed power-hitting two-time Times all-county catcher Jenny Topping (Washington). Topping's .583 average led the county, and she scored 19 runs, but her 15 RBIs were well off the 42 she had as a sophomore. Teams pitched around her, and Briquelet even used her at leadoff last season. The only other senior is Christina Gibbons (18-7, 0.58, Ball State), who is among the county's top pitchers. Four other starters, all juniors, return: infielder Lynette Ferra and outfielder Kaysie Thompson, both second-team all-league choices, first baseman Elaine Elsesser (.275) and outfielder Coral Whitmarsh. The biggest key, however, is finding someone who will make teams suffer for pitching around Topping.

* Sonora: 20-10, 7-3 in 1997. Coach: John Link (second year, 20-10). Prospects: The key to the Raiders' title hopes could rest with sophomore pitcher Andee Lindgren (8-5, 1.25 ERA). Junior all-league shortstop Jennifer Link (.462, 28 runs, 21 stolen bases) and second-team corner infielder Dawn Ramynke (20 RBIs) and left fielder Erika Lewis (.230) are among six returning position players. Third baseman Natalie Garcia (.300), Angelina Cueva (.235) and right fielder Judy Velasco, all juniors, return. The Raiders are again the likely challengers to La Habra.

* Sunny Hills: 12-11, 5-5 in 1997. Coach: Kathy Bevill (fifth year, 45-47). Prospects: The Lancers have seven starters back, but perhaps none more important than sophomore third baseman Erin Jones, the only first-team all-league player in the lineup. Senior catcher Susan Kim, a second-team player, also returns, along with pitcher Jennifer Hodgden (1.91 ERA), first baseman/pitcher Jennifer Hild, second baseman Tifani Luzzi and outfielder Sarah Monken. Speed and defense are strengths, but the Lancers must work hard to manufacture runs.

* Troy: 15-15, 6-4 in 1997. Coach: Sue Garrison (first year). Prospects: Troy's best hope to win the league title is to get an outstanding performance from sophomore pitcher Lindsey Knoff, who was a first-team all-league player as a freshman. Knoff was 11-12 with a 0.97 ERA. Also returning is catcher Kristen Hodges, second baseman Jean Anne Harley, outfielder Megan Rodgers and third baseman Diane Carrera.

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