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ECR Already Has “The Look” PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 01:29

M. Terry / SFVS

Two Queens Of The Diamond — Lauren Pascual (left) and McKenna Arriola are two reasons why the Conqustadors’s softball squad is off to a tremendous start in the 2014 season, having already defeated nine Southern Section teams.

Conquistadors Open West Valley Play This Week After A Sizzling Nonleague Run

If you haven’t been paying attention to the talents and exploits of the El Camino Real softball team, now would be a good time.

The Conquistadors enter West Valley League play this week, starting with their April 9 game against Woodland Hills rival Taft, after sending this message to the rest of the City Section:

“We’re good. We may be very, very good.” Want proof? ECR has played nine non league games and won them all.

Against Southern Section teams.

Against good, solid Southern Section teams.

Like St. Bonaventure of Ventura; Oxnard; Alemany; and Oaks Christian of Westlake Village…twice.

You take winning whenever and wherever it happens; you don’t know what will interrupt the run or disrupt the rhythm. But this is the kind of sizzling start that almost seems unfair to ask the Conquistadors to continue.

Not that they won’t try.

“The winning is a result of how we practice; how we stay focused; how we’re disciplined,” Coach Lori Chandler said. “We’re playing great defense, the pitching is doing very well, and we’re hitting.

“Everything is rolling, and that’s unusual. Usually somewhere, here and there, you’re in a hitting slump, your pitching’s off, or you’re making errors. But we're firing on all cylinders right now.”

Are they ever.

Only three of those nine Southern Section teams scored runs against El Camino Real; Camarillo, Hart of Newhall and Oaks Christian. The Lions have actually pressured ECR, scoring 12 runs in the two games, but were still swept in the two games because the Conquistadors scored 21.

There are only five seniors on the 16-player roster, but Chandler resists any notion this is a young team currently playing out of its mind.

“It’s early,” the coach said. “I don’t know if we’ve peaked; we’ve just been consistent. We still have kids who are not at their best offensively or defensively. We have enough kids playing consistent enough, and ‘we’re producing wins.”

“We’re not a young team; most of these kids have been playing since they were nine years old. They may be sophomores and freshmen but I wouldn’t think of them as a young team. We have one freshman playing second base. The rest are sophomores, juniors or seniors. … There is a core. This is not a new group; we had a lot of returners.”

With so many contributors, from senior first baseman Dayna BeBlasi (who has the team’s two home runs) and senior Jasmin Joseph (batting .515 and already accepted at MIT) to sophomore pitcher Emma Jackson (3-0, 1.40 ERA) it’s hard to point out exceptional achievement.

Yet you can.

Shortstop McKenna Arriola, a senior, has been killing it offensively: 20 hits in 34 at bats (.588), including three doubles, two triples and a team best 12 runs batted in. She also fills a leadership role coaches want their best players to do, promoting a strong work ethic in practice, being fearless at the plate and smooth in the field; and keeping team goals the top priority.

“She’s been phenomenal,” Chandler said.

Add junior right-hander Lauren Pascual, who’s pitched in eight games and is 6-0 with five shutouts. “She’s been great for us. Her only hiccup was against Oaks Christian,” Chandler said.

Both Arriola (who has committed to Oregon State) and Pascual agree the team chemistry has been an integral part of the early success.

“We work well together, we know how to communicate and feed off each other’s energy,” Arriola said. “And we build from that. It’s a chemistry that began last year. We only have two new girls on the field, I believe. Otherwise everyone’s the same.”

“We have a really great chemistry,” Pascual said. “We have good hitting and our fielding’s really good. I feel I can throw any pitch I need to because I know I have defense. And offensively, I know we’ll get there and score.”

If ECR continues at this level, there will be inevitable comparison to the 2012 team that won the City championship. That team was 27-5 and had a dominant pitcher in Karyn Wright (now at Portland State).

It’s far too early for comparisons, Chandler said.

“When people were asking before the season how we looked, I told them ‘we’ll have to see.’ It was to be that kind of year; so far, so good,” she said. “I thought we had a good shot (at winning the City title) last year and we went out in the quarterfinals. It comes down to those last four (playoff) games at the end. If you’re on, you’re on. And if you’re not, we’ve experienced that as well.”

The start of league play, as well as the upcoming spring break tournament they will play in Las Vegas, is coming at a good time. The Conquistadors won’t have time to marinate in their great start. Their West Valley competitors — which include Birmingham, Chatsworth, Cleveland, Granada Hills, and Taft — know them well and are eager to take them down a peg or two.

“Other teams don’t like us because we’ve been good,” Arriola said. “I think they want to prove us wrong…and they think we’re arrogant. I don’t think so. We are humble, and we play the game right.”

“I think this team can be as good,” adds Pascual. “We have so much potential, and everyone wants it. I don’t want us to come off as cocky because we’re not cocky. But I think we can win [a championship].”

It’s one thing to have a great start. It’s another if that’s the only thing people remember about your season.

Chandler understands the hard work has just begun.

“It’s a new season,” she said. “We break things up into different seasons. We had the [nonleague]. Now we’ll have league and tournaments. Then the postseason.

“So this starts a new season. And we’ll take it one game at a time, as we’re supposed to.”

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Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 01:43