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HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

Foothill Pair Ready to Make Major Impact

March 07, 2000|MARTIN HENDERSON

There are higher profile pitchers, such as Mater Dei's Tia Bollinger and Fountain Valley's Natalie King, but when it comes to tandems, maybe no team has two better pitchers than Foothill.

For the second year in a row, the Knights will revolve around Courtney Fossatti and Elizabeth Bendig.

The juniors were marvelous last season, but as duos go, ranked behind Bollinger and Marissa Young of Mater Dei. By season's end, King and Colleen Burdick had Fountain Valley rolling too.

But this might be the year for the Foothill pair. The Knights are No. 2 in one national ranking but ranked behind another Southern Section Division I power, Moreno Valley Valley View, whose pitcher, Keira Goerl, pitched a perfect game against Foothill in the playoffs last year.

The No. 4 team is Mater Dei, which lost to Valley View in the championship, and No. 13 is Fountain Valley, which lost to Goerl in a semifinal.

"Orange County is tough," Foothill Coach Joe Gonzalez said.

In The Times' Orange County's preseason rankings, Fountain Valley is No. 1, Mater Dei is No. 2, Foothill is No. 3.

"I don't know of anybody that has a better 1-2 combination," Gonzalez said of Fossatti and Bendig. "We're certainly not afraid to throw either one of those kids on the field at any time."

"In high school ball, you can probably get by with one pitcher, but we were glad we had two last year."

Fossatti missed the last third of the 1999 season with a sprained ankle, and she pitched only one-third of an inning--facing the first four batters--in the loss to Valley View. In her other defeat, at the Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., she entered in relief, her defense kicked the ball behind her and she didn't retire a batter.

Like Gonzalez, Fossatti says she has made the transformation to strikeout pitcher.

"The last couple of years, I depended a lot on my defense," Fossatti said. "I worked a lot on my velocity and movement with my pitching coach, and it's helped a lot. I still use my defense a ton--it still gets me out of jams--but now I feel I can depend on myself to get a strikeout if I need one."

Fossatti's injury opened the door for Bendig, who began last season learning a new position--the team needed a catcher.

By season's end, Fossatti (15-2, 0.20 earned-run average) was a Times All-Orange County first-team pitcher, and Bendig (11-0, 0.18) a second-team selection.

"We've always competed against each other, since 12-and-under," Fossatti said. "This past season, we talked about it and we've bonded a lot. It's a totally different atmosphere when we're both pitching. There's not a sense of rivalry that I think existed in the past."

Fossatti pitched a two-hitter against Clovis on Saturday, Bendig a one-hitter.

AROUND THE BASES

* On Saturday, Corona del Mar fielded a varsity team for the first time since 1997.

The Sea Kings lost twice in the Costa Mesa tournament. La Quinta won the first game, 12-10, after Corona del Mar led, 8-0 and 10-9. In the second game, Corona del Mar lost to Anaheim, 19-6.

"Offensively, we did very well," Coach Terry Cristiano said. "We had a chance to win the game with a touch of luck. For a first time out, we did an excellent job."

* In that same bracket, Anaheim won two games. The Colonists won only seven last season, which was more than they had won the previous two seasons.

If you have an item or idea for the prep softball report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at martin.henderson@latimes.com

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