Leading off in a new league | SierraSun.com

Leading off in a new league

Seth LightcapSierra Sun
Provided to the SunNorth Tahoe freshman Mealani Mesa takes a pitch during a nonleague game earlier this season as coach Richard Mesa looks on. The Lakers will compete for the first year in the Northern 2A.
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Richard Mesa and his North Tahoe High softball team hold high hopes that their new home among equally sized Northern 2A programs will be a perfect fit.While much has changed from a year ago, including the retirement of coach Bill Freeman and the switch from the Northern 3A to the 2A, the Lakers remain a tight-knit group, with Mesa having coached many of the players since they were freshman.Mesa, last years head JV coach and varsity assistant, said hed like to see his defense clean up its play, which he believes will come with time after a slow start due to snowy fields. But overall, hes pleased with his team, which includes seven seniors and four juniors. The team also absorbed a number of junior varsity players after Mesa was forced to cancel the program because he didnt have a coach.Two of the teams top juniors are standout pitchers Christina Lane and Shea Mesa, both of whom are expected by their coach to help lead the Lakers this season.I think one of our biggest strengths is going to be our pitching, coach Mesa said. Both our pitchers played varsity last year as sophomores. So theyve been throwing awhile.With four seniors leading off the batting order, North Tahoe isnt bad on the offensive side, either. Hillary Stoner hits leadoff, followed by Natalia Roberts the teams fastest baserunner then Mesa in the third slot and Lane at cleanup. Lane said she likes the Lakers chances in their new league, which includes Whittell, Incline, Lovelock, Silver Stage and Hawthorne.This year is our best team since Ive played, Lane said. We have a good chance of making it to zone playoffs.Roberts, a senior infielder, also likes the makeup of this years squad, especially when it comes to the players camaraderie.Most of the girls have played together for three seasons, she said. Were all really comfortable with each other.Although he feels he has a strong team, coach Mesa conceded that the Lakers are entering Northern 2A league play a bit on the blind side.I dont know much about the 2A teams, the coach said. But then again, they dont know anything about us, either. It goes both ways. It could be an advantage or it could be a disadvantage.Regardless of their competition, the coach said the Lakers are beginning to come around as they get more field time.Theyre starting to get it, coach Mesa said of his players. You can see things starting to click. I think with this team we can make it to zones. Thats our goal.Sylas Wright contributed to this report