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SOFTBALL

Ponce Hopes for Revival at Ocean View

May 02, 2000

There's a new challenge in front of Kathy Ponce. Winning at Ocean View--again.

Ponce hopes to restore credibility to a program that has had five coaches in four years.

A graduate of Arizona State last year, Ponce became coach of her alma mater on March 31 after the resignation of Lisa Parra.

"I definitely want to coach next year," said Ponce, who was a Times' All-Orange County player for three years, two as a first-teamer. "I'm definitely excited about the opportunity. It's going to be a real learning experience. . . . This is something I've always wanted to do."

Ponce began the season as an assistant, but has gone 1-8 since taking over. Ocean View is 6-15 overall, 3-5 in the Golden West League. Her first coaching victory came Friday, when Crystina Cruz pitched a no-hitter and Andrina Valenzuela homered to beat Saddleback, 11-1.

"I was very happy for the girls," Ponce said. "Even though we had lost some games, we had played pretty well and it was nice to know their hard work paid off."

Ocean View is tied for third place in the league. League champion Tustin is only 11-10-1 overall, but 8-1 in league.

"I want to bring respectability to the program first, and bring respectability to the league also," said Ponce, who pitched the Seahawks to the Southern Section Division I semifinals when Ocean View played in the eight-team Sunset League. "It's obvious it's not a powerhouse league. I want this league to be taken seriously."

Her players seem to be taking her seriously.

"I think we'll improve," said sophomore Courtney Tuggle, a catcher/shortstop. "All the players really respect her. She works hard on the field, and she's got her personality, which is funny, off the field."

Another person with confidence in Ponce is her former coach at Ocean View, Doug Myers.

"She definitely has potential," said Myers, who also coached Mater Dei to two section titles. "She's a student of the game. But to be successful, she's going to have to have a year-round program."

He also has a bit of advice, since Ponce went from being the players' friend as an assistant to being the boss.

"She's not that far removed from the players' ages, so she can identify with them a lot more," he said. "The distinction is you can't be their buddy."

SPEED BURNERS

Foothill, ranked No. 1 in Orange County, has three leadoff batters in its lineup. Freshman Caitlin Lowe is leading off this year, sophomore Autumn Champion led off last year, and junior Erin Mobley was the leadoff batter in 1998. The team set a school record for stolen bases (97) with seven games remaining before the playoffs. The Knights currently have 105 stolen bases with five games left in the regular season.

Lowe, who is batting .413, has 22 stolen bases; Champion, batting .329, has 19, and Mobley, batting .397, has 16.

The Knights have been safe on 86.8% of their attempts (105 of 121).

AROUND THE BASES

* After seven losses, Dana Hills sophomore pitcher Candice Rainwater's first win came in grand fashion, when she pitched a no-hitter to beat Mission Viejo, 5-0.

* Sunny Hills (11-9 overall) missed a great title opportunity in the Freeway League. The Lancers upset Sonora, 4-3, to gain a share of first place, but lost to Troy on Thursday, 3-0. Sonora (19-6) is back in first, and Troy (16-6) and Sunny Hills (11-9) are tied for second. Troy plays at Sonora on Thursday.

* Eighth-ranked Esperanza had a tough week. In fourth place in the Sunset League, the Aztecs lost to No. 7 Fountain Valley, 2-1, then to No. 6 Los Alamitos, 7-3. Coincidentally, it was Esperanza's victory over Los Alamitos a week earlier in the semifinal round of the Michelle Carew Classic that got the Aztecs ranked in the county's top 10.

With only three Sunset teams likely to advance to the playoffs, No. 3 Marina, Fountain Valley and Los Alamitos are tied for first with 5-1 records. Esperanza (2-4) is two games back with four to play.

* Esperanza plays No. 1 Foothill for the Carew Classic title at 5 p.m. Friday at Canyon High.

LOOKING AHEAD

Fourth-ranked Rosary, the only team to defeat No. 2 Mater Dei, hosts the Monarchs today at Lyons Field while No. 3 Marina plays at No. 6 Fountain Valley to break the tie atop the Sunset League.

Northwood, in its first varsity season, can win the Pacific Coast League title on Thursday at Costa Mesa. Western can assure itself a share of the Orange League title with two wins, including a victory Thursday at Brea Olinda.

In the Empire League, a half game separates first-place El Dorado from Cypress, who play each other today; El Dorado faces No. 9 (but fourth-place) Kennedy on Thursday. Kennedy plays at Loara today.

Tenth-ranked Aliso Niguel can seize control of the Sea View League, hosting Irvine on Wednesday and playing at Laguna Hills on Friday.

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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