Softball aims for a bounce-back year

 Pitcher Chloe McNamara and the infielders discuss strategy during a game last season.

Pitcher Chloe McNamara and the infielders discuss strategy during a game last season.

Dealing with its third head coach in three years, the Burlingame softball team has struggled out of the gate this season, winning just one of its first five games. Even so, the players are confident that things will get better going forward, as the Panthers are getting used to a new coaching philosophy under John Saucedo.

“John has been at Burlingame before; he’s coached JV,” senior center fielder Haley Crowell said. “A lot of the girls know him. It’s nice to have a coach who knows how to run practices, knows what to do during games.”

The Panthers’ offense was quiet in the team’s first two games, shutout losses at home to St. Ignatius and Woodside. But the Burlingame bats woke up in a big way on March 4 at Aragon, as the Panthers scored four runs in the seventh inning for an 8-7 comeback win, their first of the year.

“We started off slow, but we exploded against Aragon,” Saucedo said. “It’s coming around. They need a couple more weeks, but we’ll be all right.”

Thus far, Crowell, senior catcher Nicole Condon and junior Amber Moss have been carrying the team offensively, but the coaches expect the rest of the players to start contributing as the season progresses.

Sophomore Chloe McNamara is the Panthers’ top pitcher, and she has pitched very well in the early going, holding St. Ignatius and Woodside to three and two runs, respectively. Sophomore Kailey Latin and junior Vavineh Jordan are the team’s other pitchers and have also been effective when called upon.

“Our defense has been very strong, and that’s what’s kept us in games,” Saucedo said.

The ultimate goal for the Panthers is to return to the CCS playoffs, which they missed last year after qualifying in 2015. In order to get there, they must finish in the top three in the always-competitive PAL Bay Division. It will not be easy, especially with perennial section powers Carlmont and Hillsdale likely to get the top two spots, but the Panthers are confident, motivated and hungry to get back to the postseason.

“I expect it to be a lot better than last year,” McNamara said. “We have more structure. With more practice, we will definitely improve.”

The biggest obstacle to the Panthers’ success in the early season has been the weather. With all the rain the Bay Area has received lately, finding field time has not been easy. The Panthers have already had two games postponed due to field conditions, and their home field has frequently been unsuitable for practice.

“We’ve had to cut back a lot of our defense [drills] because the field is in bad shape,” Saucedo said.

Once the rainy season ends, however, it will be business as usual for Burlingame softball, with an improved outlook, new coaching staff, and a potential playoff berth on the horizon.

“We’re really optimistic about this year,” Crowell said. “We’re shooting for CCS, and I think we have a good opportunity to make it there. We’re all working really hard and showing up to practices, so I think we have a really good chance of making CCS.”

Posted on April 4, 2017 .