HomeSportsStrong batting, consistent pitching sets CHS softball up for playoff run

Strong batting, consistent pitching sets CHS softball up for playoff run

Published May 9, 2024

BY SHAYLA DUTTA

The attitude on the Carmel High School softball team can only be described as “excitement.” With a powerful lineup, a dedicated coaching staff and a 7-3 league record through May 3, the team may be on track to advance to the Central Coast Section playoffs for the first time in five years.

“We have a really good chance, especially with the direction our coaches are taking us in,” says senior Lily Grundy, who plays first and third base in addition to serving as one of two captains, with 23 hits and 17 runs batted in throughout the season. “They want us to do well and keep chipping away.”

On March 16, the team began on an eight-game win streak during which they outscored their league opponents 100-25. According to head coach Mike Palshaw, the team’s dedication, pitching and batting skills have helped the players rise to this level. In particular, pitcher Allie Hacker, with a league earned run average of 2.74 and three prior years of pitching on varsity under her belt, has been essential to the team’s success.

“As she’s matured, the team has become more competitive,” Palshaw says. He adds that her consistent, tough-to-barrel-up offerings have served as a platform upon which the rest of the team could grow.

Senior co-captains Ky Dahle and Lily Grundy (from left) are both strong batters and defenders. (photo by BROOKLYN CHAVEZ)

On the other side of the ball, the Padres are batting .429 as a team in Pacific Coast Athletic League play, with nine fully rostered players batting .400 or above.

Several players agree that, on top of technical strength, a positive team dynamic has been essential to their success.

“We’re all friends, and the chemistry is a lot better than in years prior,” says senior Ky Dahle, co-captain and shortstop. “On and off the field, it’s the same thing. We have really good connections with each other.”

This year’s group also possesses a quality described by Grundy as “resilient” and Palshaw as “scrappy.” Despite absences due to academic competitions and injuries, the team has been able to adjust and fill in various positions to maintain a strong line up. Junior Kristen Mastin, a third baseman and key player, was unable to play for over a month due to a broken thumb. But by moving Grundy to third base, junior Nicole Tapson to first and bringing in varsity underclassmen to fill other positions, the gap was successfully addressed.

Even still, Mastin expressed enthusiasm about her return to the field and the team itself.

“This has been the most productive high school season I’ve had so far,” Mastin says.

Freshman left fielder Delilah Herro is one of several players who plays with club teams during the off-season and expresses a similar sentiment about the nature of the team relationships.

“When I used to play travel ball, we would move back and forth through teams and teammates would come in and out,” Herro explains, “but I feel like we’re all here to stay. We all really love each other.”

The 2024 season has been the most competitive season for CHS softball since before the COVID-19 lockdown. (photo by BROOKLYN CHAVEZ)

Though now defining characteristics of the team, the closeness and versatility of CHS softball was not a given at the beginning of the season. The team began with a 1-6 record, though four losses were against experienced Gabilan Division teams and without the focus and drive they currently demonstrate. So what changed?

“Our hitting was slow to take off,” Palshaw explains. “And then it started clicking for one kid, two kids next and then it was a landslide. We struggled to hit in the early part of the season, and we weren’t taking strong at bats. Now the team has really bought into the idea that hard work, commitment and focus on the details makes a big difference.”

According to the players, the driving force behind that change has been the closeness of the team and the nature of the coaching.

“Our coaching this year has been really involved,” says junior Nicole Tapson, the team’s top hitter with a .629 league batting average and 23 runs batted in overall. “[Palshaw] has been putting in a lot of work to fundraise and do things that make us excited.”

Tapson’s run total is surpassed only by junior Ava Mangiapane, with 27 runs, 18 RBI and the second strongest league batting average of .538.

Palshaw is joined by assistant coaches Morgan Balestreri, Pete Dew, Gino Mangiapane and Greg Tapson. The large number of instructors allows for a productive one-on-one coaching and more personalized training. But according to Grundy, it’s the focus and dedication of the coaches that has really made an impact.

In addition to fundraising, Palshaw has worked to improve the fields, outline specific practice plans, address weaknesses from the game and spend more time developing skills. 

“We have schedules down to the minute, it’s really great,” Grundy explains. “It makes things feel more productive and like we’re really like pinpointing what we need to work on. Palshaw adapts to what we struggled with in games or previous practices so we can work. There’s a day-to-day difference.”

Grundy is joined by her teammates in crediting their coaches with the major improvements the team has seen throughout the season.

“It’s exciting to see how much more belief they have in themselves as players now than where we started this season,” the head coach says. “It’s been a cool evolution.”

Carmel was set to play league rivals Pacific Grove on May 6 and Monte Vista Christian on May 7, with the possibility of playing Friday, May 10, in a CCS Play In game to determine whether they will advance to CCS playoffs.

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