Coach says ‘rock solid pitching’ key to Viking success

SOFTBALL: La Jolla High School Vikings 9, Point Loma High School Pointers 6

The La Jolla High School softball team beat Point Loma High 9-6 to continue its early season success. The April 7 home victory improved the Vikings’ record to 2-0 in Western League games (8-6 overall).

The strong start is significant because it indicates that this squad could be the most talented to be fielded for La Jolla in the past half-decade. “It’s a big win for us,” Coach Anthony Sarain said about Tuesday’s game. “We haven’t won a Western League game before this year in five years.”

Winning against Point Loma was not the first clue that this team is different than those of past years. La Jolla’s 7-6 win against Clairemont High on March 26 was the first time that the Vikings beat the Chieftains in 10 years, said Sarain.

“Defense is much better, and we have some power hitting,” Sarain said about the differences between this year’s team and previous teams. “We’ve hit a lot of home runs this season.”

The offensive firepower was on display in the game against Point Loma, where the Vikings scored twice in the first inning. Most notably, senior catcher Stephanie Alvarez hit an impressive line drive to left- center field that bounced over the fence as a ground-rule double. Alvarez’s first of four hits on the day put runners on second and third. The next play was an RBI groundout

that put the Vikings ahead 2-0. The defense stepped up in the next inning

when a Point Loma base-runner was attempting to reach third base and was thrown out by freshman left-fielder Vanessa Shaffer.

The strong defense allowed the Vikings to maintain the momentum when they went to bat, scoring another two runs after a slew of singles. After two full innings, La Jolla had built a respectable 4-0 lead.

The Pointers offered their first resistance to the Vikings’ winning effort in the top half of the third inning. A rally emphasized by a RBI double in right field resulted in a 4-3 score after three innings.

Senior pitcher and team co-captian Katja Sarain, in a demonstration of resilience, was able to work out of a jam the following inning. Viking Sarain said focusing on the next pitch and ignoring everything else was her key to getting through difficult game situations when her team is on defense.

Her coach chalks it up to his pitcher’s experience. “Our pitcher is rock solid,”

Coach Sarain said. “She’s pitched over 112 games, so she’s got a lot of experience, she’s doing a great job.”

Relief came when the Vikings hitters widened the deficit in the bottom of the fourth inning. Alvarez connected on a pitch to hit a three-run homer to left-center field.

“It felt so good, nice and clean,” Alvarez said. “It was just awesome.”

Coach Sarain had nothing but praise for his catcher and co-captain. “She’s the heart of the team. She’s the toughest kid on the field,” Sarain said.

The Vikings’ biggest challenge this season will be league favorite and defending Division I CIF champions Cathedral Catholic High, who they will play on April 14 and May 7.

Other Western League rivals include University City High, Mission Bay High and Madison High.

With the senior leadership, powerful bats, and veteran pitching comprising the Vikings’ roster, La Jolla High followers have reason to be optimistic that their softball team can surprise the Western League teams and compete for the league title.

Doing well in league play will help earn an opportunity to play in CIF Division IV playoffs. Until then, players will focus on playing hard and having fun.

“We just have to have fun, go with the flow,” Alvarez said.