Two down, one to go for Valley Christian girls

Lady Lions try to complete trifecta with softball league title
By: Robbie Enos/Roseville Press Tribune Correspondent
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Volleyball: Check. Basketball: Check. Softball: In progress.

With a school of only 104 students, Valley Christian Academy has been working with the same group of female athletes in virtually every sport.

And they really don’t mind, considering the results. This group of girls has brought home league titles in volleyball and basketball, and now, they eye another title in softball.

“Playing for so long together, they have really come together as a team,” softball coach Shawnda Bowen said. “It’s just working this year. Volleyball, basketball, and now we are in our fifth year going for a league title in softball.”

Senior Midori Bounds is the top pitcher for the club, and her presence will be key to the Lions’ success. Bounds’ deep arsenal includes six pitches: fastball, changeup, drop, screwball, curveball and riseball. She also wants to take a leadership role.

“I’m one of the captains, so I want to help the girls learn mechanics and the game,” she said. “I’m also the pitcher, so I have to deliver. I’m going to have to do my best to just let them hit it and put it in play, or just strike them all out.”

The loss of seniors Brianna Flood and Abby Moore will be tough, Bowen said. But first baseman Sam Shoemake returns after missing all of last season because of foot surgery.

“We lost four seniors, and Abby and Brianna were big for us,” Bowen said. “They were with us when it really started five years ago, and they helped us to start winning league. But Midori is our top player this year, and she’s played softball forever.”

Bounds and Shoemake are hitters Bowen said will do damage. Freshman Irene Niulala is expected to be a big presence at the plate as well. Bowen also mentioned junior Heather Frank and seniors PresLeigh Sinerius and Carly Gish as big offensive weapons.

Bounds pitched a one-hitter and went 4 for 4 with three doubles in a recent 14-0 victory over New Life Christian. Frank went 3 for 4 with a double, Gish had a double and single, and Shoemake went 2 for 4.

It’s about taking things step by step this season. The trifecta of women’s sports is attainable, but the Lady Lions know they must achieve everything one game at a time.

“We are definitely shooting for a (Sac-Joaquin) Section title,” Bounds said. “But first it’s a league title, and then we’re going to move forward from there.”

Master multi-tasker Brad Gunter Jr., also the basketball coach, heads the baseball program, too.

First things first for the Lions is replacing talented right-hander Ryan Cordell, who put up video-game numbers last season as a senior. In 27 games, Cordell mashed 14 home runs and had a 1.337 slugging percentage and drew 15 walks for a .650 on-base percentage.

Cordell doubled as a pitcher and shortstop, leading the team with 39 assists in the field and 117 strikeouts against just 11 walks on the mound.

Gunter is moving forward with a young rotation. His primary starters on the mound are sophomore Jimmy Shaw and freshman Jeremiah Moore. Senior Jr. Casas will take over the duties at short, and Gunter said Casas, Micky DeFiebre and Quentin Moore should be the Lions’ top hitters.

Valley Christian lost in the Division VII section championship last season, but the Lions are ready to get over the hump and get rolling.

“We have a very tough schedule this season, but after the tough loss in the
section title game last season, I wanted to test my players throughout the
schedule and see if the young players could step up and the seniors could
lead,” Gunter said. “We’ll see how it goes. If we win this year with such a young staff, heads up for the future.”