After 20 seasons leading the West Hills College Coalinga softball program, head coach Staci Mosher is looking forward to starting her third decade with perhaps her youngest team yet.
The 2018 Falcons have only two sophomores on a roster that features three players from last year’s local CIF championship teams.
WHCC will start the campaign with three pitchers, including freshman Stephanie Cervantes who helped lead Mendota High School to a 2017 Valley title.
Cervantes will also play in the outfield and be a featured hitter in the Falcons batting order.
“As a pitcher, Stephanie has the ability to keep hitters off balance with different pitches and by mixing speeds,” Mosher said.
“She’s also a natural hitter and demonstrated great improvement during the fall.”
Two other freshmen – Jordan Vlotho (Kings Christian) and Leonela Ramirez (Tranquility) – will also see action in the circle.
“Jordan is continuing to develop new pitches, and she has a knack for forcing batters to hit ground balls,” Mosher said.
“Leonela joined us in late fall. She is coming along and working on a good rise ball.”
Mosher is pleased to have two solid catchers who can also play other positions and help offensively.
Freshmen Selena Rea (South Bakersfield) and Marlene Delgado-Nieblas (Mt. Whitney) will rotate “by committee” during what will be a long softball season, says Mosher.
“Both have strong arms and are learning the transition from high school to college like all of our newcomers. Selena has a good bat and Marlene can develop into one of our best hitters.”
Mosher, a former All-CVC shortstop, takes great pride in developing high-caliber infielders.
This season, WHCC has a group that can potentially be the foundation for both 2018 and 2019.
The lone sophomore is Destiny Duran (South Bakersfield), who led last season’s team in walks (30), ranked third in runs (22) and finished fourth in hits (34).
She played most of her freshman year at shortstop, but is expected to start at third base.
“Destiny is one of our two left-hand hitters; she’s been improving her swing to hit to the opposite field and she has more pop in her bat than last season,” Mosher said.
Freshmen Reanna Woodley (Hoover, San Diego) and Abbie Nodal (Coalinga) are also expected to see time at third base.
“Reanna is a strong hitter and Abbie also has power to hit the long ball,” Mosher said.
At shortstop, freshman Cynthia Montalvo (Kerman) is making the transition from third base.
“Cynthia has good hands, good footwork and a quick release,” Mosher said.
“Offensively, she has a quick compact swing and good power.”
Freshman Desirea Nodal (Coalinga) can play multiple infield positions, but may find a permanent spot at first base.
Desirea and Abbie Nodal are cousins who helped Coalinga High School capture the Valley championship during their senior seasons.
“Desirea continues to improve and they bring both experience from a winning program,” Mosher said.
Ramirez is the projected starter at second base.
“She's another solid infielder with good hands and good feet. Leonela will also be a solid bat for us, with the potential to drive in a lot of runs for us.”
The only sophomore in the outfield is All-CVC honorable mention returner Brenna Cortez (Kerman). The centerfielder led WHCC team starters last season in batting average (.327), hits (49), and runs scored (36).
“We expect Brenna to have another good season for us,” Mosher said.
“She has a good bat and can hit for power.”
Freshman Kendra Hawken (Lemoore) can also play centerfield and left field. Her speed and ability to get on base also makes her a projected leadoff hitter.
“Kendra is a good slap-hitter who makes good contact,” Mosher said.
Hawken was an All-CVC soccer player for West Hills College Lemoore during the fall semester.
Other freshmen expected to play left field are Cervantes and Abbie Nodal.
In right field, the Falcons will feature alternating catchers Delgado-Nieblas and Rea.
Mosher said the team has a lot of athletic ability – and with a versatile roster can compete with another tough CVC schedule.
“If our pitchers can minimize mistakes, I think we have the offense to score some runs,” she said.
“On defense, we are still learning our roles and learning what it takes to play college softball. This next level includes keeping it simple and taking it inning-by-inning. If we continue to work hard and communicate, then we have a chance to have a special season.”