Spartans getting into swing of things

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Rachel Dove takes a swing against Los Altos last week. The visiting Spartans won the game 11-2.

It took a few games to get going, but the Mountain View High softball team is getting into a groove.

The Spartans have bounced back from their 0-2 start by reeling off four wins in a row.

“We’re getting back on our feet,” coach Xavier Cook said. “We realize we should have won the first two, but things happen. Now we’re on the right path to where we want to be.”

Last week, Mountain View mowed over two teams in its path. The Spartans launched league play by routing rival Los Altos 11-2 March 19 and pummeled previously unbeaten Milpitas 9-1 Thursday.

Add in the non-league wins over Gunderson and Carlmont the week before, and Mountain View has outscored the opposition 36-4 over its last four games. In their losses to San Benito and Aragon, the Spartans were outscored by a combined 11-4.

“We could have brought a better game in those losses,” shortstop Rachel Dove said. “We had a little team chat with just the players after one of them and said, ‘We know we’re better than this, and let’s put in the effort in practice and show it in the coming games.’”

Last week’s games showed Mountain View should again contend for the SCVAL De Anza Division title, which it shared with Los Gatos a year ago. The Spartans dominated host Los Altos and visiting Milpitas on the mound and at the plate.

“I feel good about this team even more (than last year’s) because we have more girls who can hit, and they’re more confident in the batter’s box,” Cook said. “And we still have pitching – we have three capable girls.”

The trio comprises returnee Simiran Lauwers, varsity newcomer Aysia Minor and Ilona Sullivan, who transferred back to the school after a year at King’s Academy. They have a combined 1.97 ERA.

Junior Lauwers, who was 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA last year, has won both her starts this season and hasn’t surrendered a run.

“She’s not overpowering with her fastball,” Cook said, “but she gets great movement on the ball and frustrates hitters.”

Sophomore Minor, the ace on the frosh-soph team with a 12-2 record and 2.30 ERA last year, has “given us some good relief innings,” the coached added.

Senior Sullivan, who went 11-2 with an 0.58 ERA at King’s, is 2-2 with a team-high 36 strikeouts.

“She’s just a bulldog when she gets on the mound,” Cook said. “She knows she’s good, and that’s what you want – someone who knows they can get anyone out.”

Dove is glad she only has to face these pitchers in practice.

“They’re all strong pitchers who can handle themselves in any game,” she said. “And we have the defense to back them up.”

Dove’s glove has been among the best on the team; she has yet to make an error. The junior has been swinging a hot bat as well – she leads the team in slugging percentage (.736) and ranks second in batting average (.421). Dove belted her first home run of the season in Thursday’s win over Milpitas.

“Like every at-bat, I was looking to get solid contact, and I got a piece of it,” she said of the homer. “I’m definitely glad it went over.”

Only Mariah Villabolos has as many RBIs (six) as Dove. The sophomore tops the team in batting average (.500) and hits (nine).

“She’s had clutch hits for us all year long,” Cook said of the second baseman.

Three other Spartans are batting north of .300: junior catcher Jessica Day (.375), junior centerfielder Emily Klemm (.368) and Minor (.333). Cook described leadoff hitter Klemm as “a three-tool kid” who “can hit with power and just to get herself on base.”

The coach is confident Mountain View can not only get itself to the Central Coast Section playoffs, but also exceed last year’s showing.

“We have a shot at playing in the CCS finals if we put it together,” said Cook, whose third-seeded team was shut out by No. 14 Presentation in the opening round of the Division I playoffs last season. “The returning players still have a bad taste in their mouth from last year because we didn’t show up to play that day.”

Dove certainly hasn’t forgotten that game and would like to make amends this year.

“It definitely is a long-term goal,” she said of winning CCS. “I think we have the talent to do it, but it will take hard work to get to that point.”

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