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Top-Seeded Rosary Tries to Take a Giant Step

May 16, 2000|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rosary is the Southern Section's giant-killing softball team. It chopped down Mater Dei and Moreno Valley Valley View at a time when each was ranked No. 1 in a national poll. The Royals were also one out from beating Foothill, which was ranked as high as No. 2.

Now, can the overwhelming favorite to win the Division IV softball title play the role of giant?

With victories this season over two of the nation's better pitchers, Washington-bound Tia Bollinger of Mater Dei and UCLA-bound Keira Goerl of Valley View, Rosary will try to win five games in a row to win its first section championship since 1984.

"I think this is the best team we've ever had," said Natalie Golda, a four-year starter who has split time this season between first base and catcher. "What I like is that it's not just one person, it's a team effort. If I'm down, somebody else picks up the slack."

Rosary (21-8) has seniors in key positions: pitcher Mallory Anderson (16-5), catcher Danielle Guerra, third baseman Samantha Jennings and Golda. Two freshmen, shortstop Lizzy Hagen and second baseman Lizzy Nuckolls, have bolstered the middle.

"Lizzy Hagen is already the best shortstop I've had in seven years, and she's just a freshman," Rosary Coach Tom Tice said. "We've always had great second basemen, so Nuckolls continues that tradition.

"Plays that I always wanted to see the kids dive for, we're now getting to those balls. The slapper who hits the ball to shortstop and beats the throw, now we're getting that batter out."

There's also speed and power. The dash belongs to outfielders Dana Kenney and Lauren McIntosh, the smash to Golda and Jennings.

"Our batting averages are down, and they've been depressed about that, but I told them that if we were still in the Golden West League, our averages would be 100 points higher," Tice said. "The RBIs and runs scored are pretty equal, so the players are having career years in that they're playing better and we're winning.

"In the past, we've had a solid five or six hitters in the lineup, but this year, we've got nine, if not 12, who are consistently hitting the ball."

Despite beating Mater Dei, Rosary finished second in the Serra League behind the Monarchs, the top-seeded team in Division I. It's the first time the Royals are seeded No. 1 in the playoffs, and many think they are a lock for the championship.

Rosary is playing with confidence, and victories over the so-called unbeatables validated a belief that softball is a game of made opportunities.

"If you capitalize on your one chance better than someone else does in five chances, you'll win," Tice said. "We never feel overmatched.

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