2017-03-17 / Sports
Around the horn
SOFTBALL /// Royal Highlanders Royal softball squad wants to return to playoffs
Royal High boasts a proud softball program, but the team failed to reach the postseason the last two years. That’s the first time 15-year skipper Bill Dishon, who guided the team to a CIF-Southern Section Division 1 title in 2005, missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The Highlanders (3-5 overall, 1-1 in the Coastal Canyon League) refuse to stay down for long.
“We’re so close to doing so well,” said Megan Fields, a senior center fielder. “We just need to put the pieces together, relax and play the game.”
Dishon said nerves doomed the Highlanders during two losses where Royal was in control.
On March 11, the Highlanders tallied 13 hits against Burroughs but surrendered seven runs in the fifth inning of a 9-7 setback.
Those losses hurt. But now the Highlanders have a better understanding of what it will take to close out games.
“If we’re up, we need to hold them down,” senior catcher Sara Mitrano said. “We can’t give up on anything because they might be able to catch up, like Camarillo did. We’ve definitely learned from it.”
Royal’s on the right path.
“I’m happy with how we’re doing,” said Sydney Jenkins, a junior who patrols third base. “I think we just need to push to the very end. We’re almost over the hill. . . . I think we’ll get over it soon.”
Mitrano said she’s been impressed with the growth from the underclassmen.
“Last year I saw them as the babies of the team,” Mitrano said of the sophomores. “This year, I can really depend on them. I can see them maturing. I know I can trust them.”
Royal already has six home runs in eight games this spring. The team knocked four dingers in 23 games last year.
“The proof is in the pudding here,” Dishon said. “It’s showing for them right now.”
Fields and Mitrano each have two home runs this season.
Jenkins, who has a team-high .500 batting average, has eight RBI and one home run.
Bailey Clifton, a junior who shares time at first base with senior Skylar Shedlock, also has a homer.
Royal’s defense is solid.
“They’ve been making some phenomenal plays, mostly on the dirt,” Dishon said.
Sophomores Whitney Payton, who plays second base, and Lauren Lapinid, a shortstop, clog the middle infield.
Ashley Ha, a junior with five stolen bases, tracks down fly balls in left field. Jordan Branch, a senior, and juniors Sidney Horn and Maddison Giammanco share playing time in right field.
Taylor Endreola, a left-handed junior, and Nikki Larimer, a sophomore righty, are the Highlanders’ top pitchers.
“There’s a different look from both sides,” Dishon said of the pitchers. “One complements the other. Right now, they’re just helping each other do the duties.”
It will take a continued collective effort to make a push for the postseason.
“At this point in time,” the skipper said, “we’re really one unit.”