The Mountain View High softball team has big ambitions this season but little margin for error when it comes to realizing them.
The Spartans’ goals include winning the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division and qualifying for the Central Coast Section playoffs, according to coach Dave Campbell, and they will likely need to accomplish the former to achieve the latter.
“Making CCS is pretty tough in the El Camino, since De Anza (Division) teams have priority due to our bylaws in SCVAL,” Campbell said. “ Our only (guaranteed) entry is winning league.”
That helps explain why the coach is so intent on finishing first in the lower El Camino Division, which typically leads to a promotion to the De Anza Division the following year. Campbell said the De Anza is “where we belong.” Mountain View played in the upper division for more than a decade, demoted after going 1-11 in league in 2011.
The Spartans haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 – their last winning season (17-9 overall).
That could all change this year. Mountain View is off to a 7-3 start that includes a 3-1 record in the El Camino Division. The Spartans entered this week tied with Milpitas for second place and a game behind Gunn, which edged them 4-3 March 25.
“If we can beat Gunn the second game at home, and either beat or stay close to Milpitas, we’ve got a great chance at winning league,” Campbell said.
But a lot could happen before Mountain View has a rematch with either team. The Spartans aren’t scheduled to face Gunn or Milpitas – a team it beat 4-1 at home last month – until May.
“I don’t want to overlook any of the other teams, either,” Campbell said. “Last year Palo Alto throttled us, then we had some injuries, and Lynbrook and Fremont surprised us. We learned the hard way that any team can beat any other team on any given day.”
The Spartans have had more good days than bad ones recently. They went on spring break last week having won three straight games and four of their last five.
Not only is Mountain View succeeding – it’s doing so with a lineup flush with underclassmen.
A pair of freshmen – Tiana Bolin and Emma Bice – “quickly earned starting spots, playing key positions,” Campbell said. Bolin plays second base and also pitches; Bice starts at shortstop and sometimes moves to catcher. Bice tops the team in batting average (.381), while Bolin is tied with sophomore outfielder Sophia Karolczak for the most RBIs (five).
Sophomore Katie Moran “is shoring up our outfield,” Campbell said. She threw out a runner at the plate in the Spartans’ 12-1 rout of Lynbrook April 3.
Like Moran, pitcher Reanna Lancaster has rebounded from an injury-plagued 2013 season. The junior is the ace of the staff, posting a 5-1 record. Lefty Lancaster sports a 1.17 ERA and averages a strikeout per inning. She has performed well at the plate, too, boasting a .333 batting average.
Bolin is the team’s No. 2 hurler. She is 1-1 with a 2.80 ERA and pitched a one-hit shutout against Santa Clara at the Mission College Tournament April 5.
The Spartans have also received key contributions from center fielder Jackie Olivares (.333 batting average), catcher Allison Lundberg (.294) and third baseman Mariah Ramirez (.375), all juniors.
Mountain View is slated to visit Los Altos 4 p.m. Thursday in a non-league game postponed twice due to rain. The Eagles are 4-1 in the De Anza and 10-7 overall.