North Tahoe softball preview: Lakers hope to ride pair of aces to postseason
Softball wins don’t come easily without a competent pitcher. Luckily for the Lakers, they have two talented hurlers, with a third emerging.
Senior co-captains Christina Lane and Shea Mesa return as the Lakers’ dual aces, while sophomore Mealani Mesa is settling in to the third spot in the rotation after a solid first outing.
“Both are throwing harder,” head coach Richard Mesa said of his top two pitchers, “and their other pitches seem to be working better, so that helps.”
Lane said her best pitch is her drop ball. She also throws a changeup and fastball. Shea Mesa throws a changeup to compliment her screwball, her most effective pitch, while Mealani Mesa stuck to a fastball in her first game pitching in the Yerington Tournament last weekend.
In addition to their improved velocity, both Lane and Shea Mesa said they have better command of the strike zone than a year ago ” a key factor to the Lakers’ success considering the skilled group of returning infielders behind them.
“Our infield definitely is going to be better than last year, because they’re all returning starters,” coach Mesa said, adding that his outfield is less experienced. “The outfield is a work in progress. We lost our entire outfield.”
The returning infielders make up the top of the Lakers’ lineup, with Shea Mesa leading off and senior Hilary Stoner, also a co-captain, hitting second in the order. Sophomore Alexa Andrews, North Tahoe’s home run leader last season, will hit third, followed by Lane in the cleanup spot, Shannon Stack batting fifth and Mealani Mesa sixth. Coach Mesa said the bottom of the order is not set.
“We have a lot of potential. We just need to get rid of that one bad inning,” said Stoner, a third-baseman who also played catcher for the first time in the Yerington Tournament.
“I like it,” Stoner said of playing catcher. “It’s different. It’s a lot more challenging, but I like it.”
Before Stoner stepped up to play behind the plate, Lane and Shea Mesa traded off at catcher when not pitching.
With more depth at both the pitching and catching positions this year, the Lakers hope to earn a berth in the Northern 2A regional tournament.
Last year they tied with Whittell for the fourth and final playoff spot, forcing the Tahoe Basin rivals to play a one-game tiebreaker at a neutral site. North Tahoe rallied for seven runs in the final inning of the tiebreaker to eke out a 12-10 comeback win.
he Lakers went on to drop their first two games of the double-elimination regional tournament for an early exit. They lost to first-seeded Battle Mountain and to second-seeded Silver Stage.
This year Stoner expects a balanced league with the addition of Incline, which played independently in 2008 in its transition season from the 3A to the 2A.
“Our games are going to be fun to watch because most of them should be close,” Stoner said.