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High Schools | SOFTBALL REPORT

Royal Quest for Simi Valley

May 13, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Lisa Modglin has a pretty good view of her teammates from her position in center field, and the Simi Valley senior likes what she sees.

Chanel Roehner pitching as a champion.

Freshman Jandie Hendrix playing shortstop like a senior.

A team that didn't seem to have much chemistry playing as if they are best of friends.

And now, Simi Valley (17-6), ranked No. 8, has a chance to be the upset winner of the Marmonte League when it plays host to No. 5 Simi Valley Royal (18-4) today at Rancho Santa Susanna Park.

Each is 11-2 in the toughest league in Southern California, and the winner will take a major step toward positioning itself to win the Southern Section Division I title.

Four-time league champion Thousand Oaks has fallen off, and Modglin & Co. are hoping to seize the opportunity.

"We haven't done well in the past, and I think we're sick of doing bad," said Modglin, who's batting .350 with 14 runs. "We decided to work really hard this year.

"This is a self-made team. There's a lot of talent, but talent doesn't go far if you don't work hard. This year, we've used our talent in the best way, we brought out our talent in the best way, and everyone is playing to their potential."

Simi Valley hardly seemed a threat this season, with most of the preseason focus on Royal, Westlake Village Westlake, Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks. Roehner, 17-4 with a 0.50 earned-run average, has been especially impressive.

"She's meant a lot. She's been phenomenal," said Suzanne Manlet, who coached the Pioneers to their last section title in 1993 and last league title in 1994. "She's been keeping us in games, and we've been playing very good defense as well."

Playing particularly well on defense is Hendrix, who came up from the junior varsity to replace injured Nicole Gutierrez (back) 11 games ago.

Junior second baseman Karen Schulz and senior catcher Heidi Knabe also have been critical on defense, but Modglin thinks Nicole Miller's glove work at first base has made everyone else better. "She catches everything that comes to her," Modglin said.

Defense is important, because Roehner, who changed pitching coaches in the off-season and also changed her windup, isn't a strikeout pitcher. She needs a solid defense to be successful, and Simi Valley's record is a testament to it. Simi Valley, which was 14-13-1 a year ago, has maximized the minimum this season. A perfect example is Knabe, who is batting only .277 but has a team-high 14 runs batted in. The team batting average is only .195.

"It's not really surprising to me how well we've done," Modglin said, "but maybe how well we've come together. No one on our team was really good friends, but we all came together and played really well."

*

If Simi Valley's season has been a pleasant surprise, Santa Ana Foothill's has been an unpleasant one. The Knights were expected to be one of the top teams in the state, but fell on hard times because of injuries.

"I didn't know if we were going to come back or not," said Coach Joe Gonzalez.

On Monday, with the return of second baseman Whitney Radcliffe (broken arm), Foothill will have its full team for the first time. It also spent much of the season without third baseman Paige Lowe, who missed about 18 months because of a back injury.

Before losing last week to Irvine Woodbridge, 1-0, in the bottom of the seventh inning on a two-out RBI single by Melissa Haffner, Foothill had strung together an eight-game winning streak. The Knights go into this last week of the regular season with a 14-12 record but are tied atop the Sea View League with Woodbridge.

"I'm really excited about the way we're playing right now and excited about the playoffs," said center fielder Caitlin Lowe, who missed five games because of a broken thumb. "It's weird to look at us now and think we have 12 losses, but we were able to learn from each of those losses and it made us better in the long run."

Another reason for Foothill's renewed success has been the play of Jiliane Hartfiel, a former third baseman in her first season as a starting varsity catcher.

*

Only time will tell if the first at-bat in the history of Mission Viejo Tesoro's varsity softball program was an omen, but Rachel Wistrom's home run certainly provided a memorable beginning for Coach Kari Tubbs' program.

Tubbs, who was also coach at Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel when that school opened, is getting her second shot at developing a program from scratch. So far, so good. Tesoro is 18-5 and has a chance to win a share of the Pacific Coast League title today when it plays host to Irvine Northwood.

Tubbs said the school was fortunate it didn't have to compete at the varsity level in its first year, but instead had a year to grow as a junior program.

He said everybody is contributing, from pitcher Rachel Gochenour, who has done a good job of keeping the Titans in games, to Torri Catalano, Shantelle Cardella and Nicole Aaronson, who have provided most of the offense.

*

The success of No. 22 Etiwanda in the playoffs could depend on the soundness of pitcher Jackie Rogers (hip flexor), who led the Eagles to the Division I championship game last season. Some of her pitching duties have fallen to Rachel Lopez.

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