The Breakers return all but one starter from last year’s team that finished third in the Orange Coast league before losing in the CIF wild card round to Silverado. It was Laguna’s first post-season home game in 10 years.
Victoria Batistelli, Alan Ludloff’s assistant last season, takes over coaching duties from Ludloff, who led the team to a 15-8 finish in his only season. This is Batistelli’s first head coaching position, having previously assisted at her alma mater, Division 1 Wagner College, on Staten Island, N.Y., after completing a professional softball career in Italy.
All-CIF and all-league senior pitcher Haley Putnam and all-league senior catcher Kennedi Gherardini anchor a Breaker offense that also features fellow senior Cory Kent (SS), juniors Jordan Hartman (3B, OF) and Jennifer Sorenson (OF), and sophomore Halle Redfearn (P, 1B).
All six finished the 2012 season with batting averages well north of .400, and Putnam and Kent topped .500. They are joined in the starting lineup by junior Veronica Clancey (OF) and sophomore Katyn Ott (2B), who were no slouches at the plate last year, sporting .372 and .346 averages respectively.
Putnam and Redfearn got Laguna got off to an impressive start, beating Capistrano Valley Christian 29-0 in a combined no-hitter in the season opener. The Breakers followed with a 3-1 win over Westminster’s La Quinta High in the opener of the Costa Mesa Tournament.
They followed those two opening victories with three straight lopsided losses, one to division II Mission Viejo and both ends of a double header to La Sierra Academy, a top division IV team. As of March 12, Laguna’s record was 2-3. “We are excited about this season and have stacked our schedule with highly competitive teams to challenge us and make us better,” said Batistelli.
After a season that included five new school records, the boys swimming team is off to a solid start in their quest to improve on last season’s CIF runner-up finish. They easily beat Pacifica/Garden Grove 116-33 in their season and home opening dual meet earlier this month.
Coach Kari Johnson returns for another year, having elevated the program to a level of respect not seen at Laguna before her arrival. In her first season, she led the boys to their first ever league championship, and neither team has lost a league title under her watch.
Johnson presided over both teams’ best ever CIF showings as well: runner-up finishes for the girls in 2009 and 2011, and last year’s boys’ team. And a number of talented swimmers on both teams have set 18 of the school’s 22 records with Johnson poolside.
The fifth-year coach thinks the boys “have a shot at winning” CIF this season. If so, they will have to do it without Billy Wild, who set a school record in the 100 butterfly to win Laguna’s first ever boys CIF individual title.
In a four-year varsity career, Wild established two individual school records and is part of two record-setting relay teams. Other key losses for the boys are Tommy Renner and Dane Doran.
Returning from last year’s CIF runner up squad are all-league sophomores Erik Juliusson, who finished second at CIF in the 100 backstroke and third in the 500 freestyle in school record times, and Cade Baldridge, a member of the 400 freestyle relay team that set a new school standard at CIF.
Joining those two are all-league seniors Caleb Scott and Riley Thomas, as well as newcomers Cameron Karkoska and Max Morgan.
The girls lost distance specialist Melena Masson and sprinter Yoshi Andersen, who have moved on to college water polo careers.
Returning from last season’s CIF squad are senior Lexi Del Toro, juniors Lila Vera, Maggie Renner, MacKenzie Baldridge and Jenna Knott, and sophomores Makenzie Fischer and Faith Hale. Freshman Abby Cohn is a notable addition to the squad.
Vera earned first team all-league honors, winning the 100 butterfly and finishing second in the 100 backstroke at CIF last year. She owns school records in both events.
Del Toro also made first team all-league, while Knott and Renner made second team.
Johnson thinks the girls have enough talent to put them on the podium at CIF finals.
Photos by Robert Campbell