BY QUINN SPOONER
Having won the Mission Trail Athletic League for the past two years, the Carmel High softball team is focused on winning the MTAL for the third year in a row, according to team members.
“With 12 returners this year, I would expect our offense and defense to be solid,” head coach Jim Pingree says.
The team made it to round two of the Central Coast Section championships last year, amassing a season record of 23-6.
“I’m totally expecting it,” senior shortstop Jocelyne Bruno says. “We’ve done it for the last couple of years. If we just keep the same mindset and we work just as hard, then I think we should be first.”
Due to changes in the MTAL brackets, the team will have a challenging season, according to junior pitcher Jessica Pavloff.
“We’re playing the harder teams more than once,” the righty says. “I think that playing Pacific Grove three times and playing Santa Catalina three times is going to affect the road to getting MTALs, but I think that we have a good shot.”
However, the increased difficulty of the schedule could have a positive impact on the Padres. By playing stronger teams, Carmel will be more prepared for league games and playoffs, according to Pavloff.
In 2017, the Padres beat Pacific Grove 5-2 and 7-1. This year, the Padres play Pacific Grove and the Padres’ other main rival Santa Catalina three times apiece. Carmel beat Santa Catalina both games last year, winning 8-7 and 12-2.
“Compared to our league, we are one of the strongest definitely,” says senior Rachael Carroll, who won first team MTAL All League honors last year. “But starting off, I don’t think we’re gonna be as strong as we were last year.”
The team only lost three seniors, so most of the team’s starting lineup consists of returning members. Junior Kristin Cardinalli, with a .484 batting average in 2017, is returning along with Bruno, who had a .483 average. Many returning members won MTAL selection awards last season, including Bruno, Carroll, Pavloff, Cardinalli, senior Anna Buzan and sophomore Jaclyn Hyles.
The starting lineup is comprised of six returning starters and three other returning players who were not starters last year.
This year, the team also has assistant coach Lindsay Schutzler to help the team. Schutzler played Division-I softball at the University of Tennessee and on the USA national team. She was a three-time all-American at UT and remains the all-time hit leader at Tennessee.
“She knows what she wants to see from the players,” Carroll says. “She won’t take any crap from anyone. Also, she’s very organized and is very knowledgeable about the sport.”
Pingree’s coaching style is not expected to deviate as a result of the changing brackets or the new team.
“My coaching philosophy has always stayed the same: Have fun and compete!” Pingree says. “As for offense and defense, we never compare years. The makeup is different year to year, and we compete as a team.”
As a result of players leaving, some new positions have opened up. These positions are highly sought after, creating competition, Carroll says.
“Everybody wants to play those positions so people are competing really hard,” Carroll adds. “Not a lot of people were competing last year.”
Some players might have trouble adapting to their new roles, which may cause complications. For instance, Bruno is playing shortstop this year, even though she played catcher for the previous three years.
Two of the seniors that left last year, Ashlyn Davis and Zoe Patterson, were two of the team’s best hitters.
Going into the team’s Tuesday and Wednesday games against Hollister and Notre Dame, the Padres were 1-0. The Padres play next March 10 at the Live Oak Tournament in Salinas, and their next home game is Tuesday, March 13, against Salinas.