The return of varsity softball to Laguna Beach High last season after a three-year absence created a stir, as a bunch of talented underclassmen earned an at-large post season bid after battling to a 5-5 league record and a 10-9-1 mark overall.
Coach Alan Ludloff, who replaces Mike Hunter, brings nearly two decades of experience as a baseball and softball coach to his new position. He inherits a team whose star player, Haley Putnam, is only a sophomore.
Putnam started every game for Laguna on the mound and finished with a 10-8 record, a 2.14 ERA and 123 strike outs in 159 innings pitched. She also led the team at the plate and on the bases with a .358 avg., 15 RBI, 22 runs scored, a .477 OBP, and 24 steals in 24 tries.
Sophomore Kennedi Gheradini resumes her duties behind the plate, where Ludloff said she “could end up being one of the best catchers in Orange County.” She finished last season hitting .350 with 11 RBI and 2 HR.
Juniors Corey Kent and Karina Riess, and sophomore Veronica Clancey are also players to watch, as are freshmen Halle Redfearn and Jennifer Sorenson, who Ludloff said will get some at bats with the varsity this season.
Sophomore Jordan Hartman, who returns from a knee injury that sidelined her for most of last year, should also contribute. “She has skills and attitude that will make her a special player,” said Ludloff.
Pitching and defense are the Breakers strengths, with youth and inexperience their main obstacle to success. “If we are willing to work hard and learn from our mistakes, we will reach our team goal,” said Ludloff, referring to his team’s aim to return to post season.
Laguna opens on the road against JSerra next Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 3:15.
Boys and Girls Track
The girls won their second straight league title last season, while the boys saw their string of four straight come to an end.
The boys will have a tough time getting past a talented stable of runners from Godinez. And the graduation of Devin Kent, the league runner up in the high jump, takes away one of Laguna’s only bright spots in the field events, although senior Ricky Delatorre should have the inside track to repeat as shot put champ and make a run at the discus title.
Key returners for the boys are seniors Jeff White, the defending champ at 3200 meters, and Ryan Jones (1600m), and juniors Barton Reece (200m and 400m), Kevin Tovar (200m, 400m), Tyler Nichols (800m), Spencer Anderson (300m hurdles), and Bryce Williams (triple jump). All have a chance of contributing points in the team’s run to a league title.
Senior Gordon Belyea and sophomore Chris Telez, who finished 1-2 in the JV100 meter race at league finals, could make some noise at the varsity level this season.
Led by senior Natasha Strickland, the defending league champ at 1600m and 3200m, the girls should dominate the distance events again. But the graduation of high jump winner Christianne Kinder, Christa French, runner up in both the 300m hurdles and triple jump, Samantha Garner, runner up in shot put, and Beverley Ronses, third in the 800m, takes away much of the scoring that helped them take the team title last season.
Still, the return of seniors Hannah Jonus (100m) and Tori Toma (200m, 400m), junior Grace Clark (3200m runner up), and sophomores Lolo Cant (400m runner up) and Tessa Hopper (100m) should give the girls a fighting chance at a third straight title.
Improvement from top JV sprinters Emma Barker (100m, 200m), Paige Toro (100m), Kyra Humphries (200m) and Tatum Moore (400m), as well as 100m hurdler Darby Winson could make them factors at the varsity level.
Girls coach Steve Lalim and Scott Wittkop on the boys side lead their teams onto Guyer Field against LaSierra on March 1 to open the season.
After last season’s runner up league finish that broke their string of three straight league titles, the golf team looks to regroup. But they will have to do so without their best player Andrew Palmer, a first team all league selection who finished third in the Golden West league individual finals to qualify for CIF competitions last season.
Returning seniors Tim Peterson, who also qualified for CIF with a fifth place finish in league, and Beau Bourne will lead coach Scott Finn’s young team looking to get back on track, starting with their season opener against Aliso Niguel at Aliso Viejo Country Club on Feb. 28 at 2:30.
The boys tennis team returns most players from a team that easily swept its league matches last season and made an impressive run through CIF that ended with a loss to Viewpoint in the finals.
Gone are league MVP and top singles player Jake Michaels, and first team all-league doubles player Benito Romeo. Back is junior Teague Hamilton, the No. 2 singles player last season who swept his three matches against Viewpoint in the finals.
He will try to lead a core unit of all-league selections in juniors Morgan Lebby and Owen Webber, who, along with last year’s No. 3 singles player Austin Loomis, have the kind of post-season experience that could finally put coach Don Davis’s Breakers past two-time division IV defending champs Viewpoint, which lost seven to graduation.
The regular season gets underway with a road match against Foothill, Monday, Feb. 27, at 3 p.m.