Softball league carries on amid pandemic

Mountain View Los Altos Girls Softball’s 10U Nova team
Courtesy of Pete Dailey
Chloe Caldbeck, left, and Sabrina Neal of the Mountain View Los Altos Girls Softball’s 10U Nova team stand near home plate during fall ball practice.

When the coronavirus took hold in the Bay Area in March, Mountain View Los Altos Girls Softball – like many other youth sports leagues – was forced to shut down. However, the organization quickly adapted to state and local guidelines, offering programs throughout the summer and fall.

MVHS grad Hayward caps softball season as 3rd-ranked player in pro league

Victoria Hayward
Courtesy of Victoria Hayward
Victoria Hayward makes contact during a recent game with Athletes Unlimited Softball.

Victoria Hayward wasn’t crowned individual champion of Athletes Unlimited Softball, but the 2010 graduate of Mountain View High made a serious run at the title in the pro league’s inaugural season.

Hayward breaks new ground

Victoria Hayward
Courtesy of Victoria Hayward
Victoria Hayward plays in Athletes Unlimited Softball.

Victoria Hayward has made an impact on and off the field with Athletes Unlimited Softball, an innovative professional league that wraps up its inaugural season next week.

Pinewood School softball player Mitchell to play for Occidental College

Ellery Mitchell
Courtesy of Ellery Mitchell
Los Altos resident Ellery Mitchell, pitching for her club team, will play softball at Occidental College.

Like so many other spring-sport athletes whose seasons were cut short due to the COVID-19 crisis, Ellery Mitchell is lamenting a lack of closure and an unforeseen future.

Her senior season of softball at Pinewood School was over after just one game and now her first semester of college may not be anything like she envisioned pre-pandemic.

“I think everyone’s biggest fear is that they have to stay home when they’re supposed to be going to college and starting a new process,” said Mitchell, who has committed to Occidental College. “It’s kind of hard because it feels like there’s not a division between my senior year and then my year starting at college.”

Not having a true senior season at Pinewood was tough on Mitchell and her teammates.

“For us, we just have to totally readjust and find ways to make our Senior Night special without the full focus of our senior year being this pandemic,” the Los Altos resident said prior to graduating. “Ever since we were freshmen, we saw how senior night went and all the effort that went into it, so it kind of feels like our year is just going to be overlooked. For a valid reason – obviously, we don’t want to put anyone in danger – but it is just a letdown because we have built these things up in our head and had this perfect senior year envisioned.”

Mitchell plans to continue training with her club team, the NorCal Blast, through Zoom workouts and at home using a batting cage and an area for pitching practice in hopes of competing in a tournament tentatively scheduled for later this month. The team’s season was supposed to begin at the end of May and run through the summer.

NorCal Blast coach and club director Steve Rianda called Mitchell “a very versatile player. She is a pitcher, she can play infield, she can play outfield. It gives coaches a good ability to move her around the different positions.”

Although she can play multiple positions, Mitchell said her goal is to focus on pitching next year at Occidental. Following in her older sister Quinn’s footsteps, Mitchell became a pitcher at a young age. After taking a brief hiatus from the mound, she realized pitching was what she really wanted to do.

“In that year of not doing it, I missed it 10 times as much as I thought I would,” Mitchell said. “And that’s when I realized I really wanted to do it, and it wasn’t just something I was being forced into doing because my sister did it, but I actually enjoyed it a lot and it made me feel really empowered.”

Playing for Pinewood, Mitchell earned all-league honors the past three seasons. She also played soccer for the Panthers and received honorable-mention recognition in the West Bay Athletic League this year.

Although her softball season ended prematurely, Mitchell has made sure to stay busy during the quarantine by picking up new hobbies. Going into college undecided, she wants to explore all that Occidental has to offer.

“I just want to go on to college and start trying whatever things interest me and really just study something that I find interesting and that I want to do,” she said. “I feel like even now, during quarantine, I feel like I’m trying different things that I thought I wouldn’t like, and I like them.”

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