2017-05-19 / Sports

Lancers are in the zone

SOFTBALL /// Grace Brethren Lancers Grace Brethren finished regular season with perfect record
By Jonathan Andrade


UNTOUCHABLE—Jessie Fontes, a freshman, has three no-hitters and one perfect game for Grace Brethren High’s softball team this season. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers UNTOUCHABLE—Jessie Fontes, a freshman, has three no-hitters and one perfect game for Grace Brethren High’s softball team this season. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Things have come full circle for the Lancers.

Grace Brethren High’s softball team rode the coattails of former star pitcher Jordan Collison to a CIF-Southern Section Division 7 semifinal berth in 2015. Last season, the squad struggled without a standout pitcher, going 2-8 in Frontier League action.

This year, freshman superstar pitcher Jessie Fontes has made all the difference from the circle while helping the Lancers compile a 13-0 overall record, including a perfect 10-0 in league, during the regular season.

Fontes threw complete games in all 13 games, including three no-hitters and a perfect game against Discovery on April 19. Foes batted a combined .053 against the young star.

“Jessie carries the team on her back every game,” said Courtney Amman, a senior who roams third base. “She’s just got a God-given talent. She throws so fast. For her being so young, it’s crazy to see how talented she is and to see where she can go from here.”


HOT POTATO—Grace Brethren softball head coach Heidi Bird, right, talks with her players during practice May 16. The Lancers opened the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 playoffs on Thursday. HOT POTATO—Grace Brethren softball head coach Heidi Bird, right, talks with her players during practice May 16. The Lancers opened the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 playoffs on Thursday. The Lancers, who entered the postseason ranked No. 3 in Division 7, opened the playoffs on Thursday against Campbell Hall. A score was unavailable at press time.

Head coach Heidi Bird, in her second season, hasn’t needed to find relief pitchers to come in for Fontes, who flaunted a 0.43 earned-run average entering the week. The freshman threw all 82 innings during the regular season, striking out 184 of 289 batters with only 17 walks. She’s given up 14 hits, including seven extra-base hits, all doubles.


COMING TO A FIELD NEAR YOU—Grace Brethren won the Frontier League title. Clockwise from above: Courtney Amman fields the ball at practice; Ashton Vaughan prepares to hit a toss from Aliya DiMuro; Hailey Anenberg practices with the team. COMING TO A FIELD NEAR YOU—Grace Brethren won the Frontier League title. Clockwise from above: Courtney Amman fields the ball at practice; Ashton Vaughan prepares to hit a toss from Aliya DiMuro; Hailey Anenberg practices with the team. “We knew if we could put up runs for Jessie that we would be in games,” Bird said.

The Lancers have picked opposing pitchers apart from the batter’s box.

Grace Brethren notched a .359 team batting average, led by Fontes, the team’s leadoff hitter who owned team-high figures in batting average (.600) and hits (27).

Hailee Hellstrom, a junior catcher who bats third, is tied with Fontes with a team-high 20 runs scored. Her brother, Gunner, is a baseball catcher who signed a scholarship with Nebraska.

Hellstrom and Fontes have a groove as the team’s battery.

“Her and Jessie have really gelled, so we have that nice pitcher-catcher combo going on,” Bird said. “They’ve been able to keep the runs down.”

While teams struggle to hit Fontes’ blistering fastballs, rise balls, screwballs and change-ups, Amman has been busy lighting up the scoreboard.

The senior, who has three triples and the team’s only home run this season, provides the pop as the cleanup hitter. She’s knocked in a team-high 16 runs this year.

“Our offense is really good this year,” Amman said. “We did a lot of personal work outside of practice. Everybody was really stepping up.”

Kelsie Smith, a sophomore shortstop, finds ways to get on base as the team’s No. 2 hitter. She was hitting .325 with 15 runs scored at press time.

Hellstrom entered the postseason hitting .465 with nine RBI.

“A lot of the bottom of the lineup has come up a lot with the clutch hits,” Amman said. “That’s been a big help this year.”

Ashton Vaughan, a senior who patrols first base; Sarah Arp, a junior right fielder; and Regan Lee, a freshman left fielder, have come up with timely hits for the Lancers.

Arp knocked in a clutch RBI during a one-run victory over Carpinteria in the March 14 season opener. Grace Brethren, which has outscored foes 121-9 this season, has only been in one other one-run game, an extra-inning 4-3 win against Nordhoff on April 7.

Aliya DiMuro is a versatile freshman who plays in the outfield and at first base. She also suited up for the girls’ basketball team in the winter, along with Fontes, who averaged 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and a three steals per game on the hardwood.

Bird said the freshmen have been crucial this year for the Lancers.


STRETCHING IS IMPORTANT— Grace Brethren’s Bella Gonzales catches the ball at a recent practice. Gonzales is a junior outfielder with the Lancers. STRETCHING IS IMPORTANT— Grace Brethren’s Bella Gonzales catches the ball at a recent practice. Gonzales is a junior outfielder with the Lancers. “From the start of the season to the end, they’ve grown so much,” the coach said. “Being able to get the opportunity to coach them and improve their skills is exciting. We have all these freshmen that are going to continue with us for the next years.”

Grace Brethren received a boost from another rookie, first-year softball player LaRee Harper, a senior who won a CIF title with the girls’ soccer team during her junior year. Harper went from newbie to starting center fielder in a flash.

“She’s just naturally athletic,” Bird said. “She was able to step into that role.”

Hailey Anenberg, a senior, and Bella Gonzales, a junior, also patrol the outfield.


TEE TIME—Grace Brethren High softball standout Hailee Hellstrom hits the ball off the tee during practice earlier this week. The Lancers, undefeated Frontier League champs, finished the regular season with a perfect 13-0 record. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers TEE TIME—Grace Brethren High softball standout Hailee Hellstrom hits the ball off the tee during practice earlier this week. The Lancers, undefeated Frontier League champs, finished the regular season with a perfect 13-0 record. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Aria Ji, Alyssa Gonzales (Bella’s sister) and Leah Rivera bolster the Lancer roster.

Unlike fidget spinners, winning won’t just be a trend for the Lancers this season.

Bird, a former Simi Valley High standout who played in two Women’s College World Series for Arizona State and won a ring as an assistant coach, expects her team to continue reaching the postseason in coming years.

“We’re trying to build a program,” she said. “Our name has gotten out a little more, especially within Simi Valley.

“Our program isn’t about just coming out here to play. My goal is to make you a better athlete, make you a better student and a better person. It’s not just on the field. It’s off the field as well.”


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