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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Stellar Spartans

Simi Lauwers
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Simi Lauwers pitches against St. Francis in what proved to be the last game of the season for both teams.

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Opposing teams that didn’t scout Mountain View High softball players Emily Klemm and Simi Lauwers were in for an unpleasant surprise once the game began.

Centerfielder Klemm and pitcher Lauwers are deceptively good at what they do.

Despite her lack of size, Klemm packs a punch at the plate and has the arm strength to throw out runners at any base.

Unlike a lot of aces, Lauwers doesn’t overpower batters – she gets them out with her craftiness.

“Simi doesn’t throw as hard as everyone else, but she throws a lot of junk at you,” Mountain View head coach Xavier Cook said. “She’s not going to get 10 strikeouts a game, but she’ll get you to pop up or ground out. It shows that speed isn’t everything.”

Neither is size, as the 5-foot-4 Klemm has proven. Cook had good reason to bat her third or fourth in the lineup this season.

“She’s a power hitter, even though she’s not very big,” he said of Klemm, who used to bat leadoff. “She puts the ball over the fence quite often.”

Klemm and Lauwers developed their respective skills over years of hard work. Both girls have been year-round players since elementary school and are members of A-level travel teams. Klemm plays for the San Jose Lady Sharks; Lauwers is on the Fremont-based Lady Wolfpack.

Pivotal to the program

The two seniors have played for Mountain View’s varsity team since they were sophomores. Klemm and Lauwers shared team captain duties this season.

“They’ve been a huge part of our program,” Cook said. “They’ve played a big part in our success.”

When the Spartans edged Los Gatos 6-5 last year to essentially wrap up the SCVAL De Anza Division title, Klemm and Lauwers came through in the clutch. Klemm belted a game-tying home run in the seventh – her second of the game – and Lauwers earned the win in relief by shutting down the Wildcats in that final frame.

Mountain View earned its first invitation to the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs – comprising the top eight teams – but made a quick exit with an extra-inning loss to Carlmont in the quarterfinals.

Klemm and Lauwers said the loss hurt and that the team was eager to make amends this year. The Spartans were off to an encouraging start, going 4-2 before the season was canceled in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we would have been very strong in league,” Lauwers said. “Our pitching, defense and hitting were all strong, and the coaches know to utilize people to the best of their ability. If we made it to CCS, I think we could have done well.”

Klemm noted that this year’s team not only had talent, but also the intangibles critical for success.

“We were really close, and we connected well and meshed well,” she said. “I thought we could have gone really far if we made CCS.”

Klemm flexes muscle

Klemm was hitting the ball far when the season came to a premature end. She smacked a double that scored both of Mountain View’s runs in its March 11 finale, a 4-2 loss at powerhouse St. Francis. Klemm finished the year batting .375, led the team with five RBIs and was tied for the most hits with six. Those hits included a triple and a home run.

Klemm’s power – her .750 slugging percentage ranked second on the team – even amazes her coach.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Cook said with a chuckle when asked how she does it. “I think it’s all about her swing.”

Klemm acknowledged that she does work hard on her mechanics, but that’s not the only reason she’s able to go deep.

“My dad has me lifting weights,” she said. “I look small, but I feel strong.”

Klemm added that it “feels good” to surprise the opposition when she’s at bat or patrolling center field.

“I love throwing runners out, especially at home, and making plays people don’t expect me to make,” she said.

Lauwers wins with spin

Lauwers surprises opposing teams with the way she’s able to move the ball from the mound. She specializes in the spin.

“I’ve gone to a (pitching) coach for many years and he’s very much about the spin of the ball, and that’s what I work on,” she said. “I have a drop ball and a rise ball, and with the right spin you can get the ball to really move. You can get people to pop up and ground out more, because they’re not expecting the spin.”

Klemm, the Spartans’ second pitcher, has learned a thing or two from Lauwers.

“I often ask her how she throws the curve and spins the ball,” she said. “Simi has a really nice curve, rise – all the pitches. Her spin is crazy.”

Lauwers last year posted a team-best record of 9-3 with an 0.74 ERA. She was off to a 2-1 start this season, notching 14 strikeouts and walking only four batters.

“Simi gives the girls so much confidence when she’s on the mound,” Cook said. “I think she could have been the league MVP this year.”
Lauwers is a threat at the plate as well. Her .444 batting average topped the team this season.

“I enjoy hitting, but I don’t get to do it that often,” she said. “It’s fun to be a pitcher and face the pitcher of the other team. You know the strike zone and what pitches to look for.”

Next stop: college

Although Lauwers and Klemm have played their last game at Mountain View, their softball careers are far from finished. Both girls plan to play in college.
Lauwers has committed to Chapman University, where she will play alongside older sister Rani, a catcher in her junior year.

“I knew I wanted a small (NCAA) DIII school, where there’s a good balance of schoolwork and sports,” said Lauwers, who is interested in a medicine-related major. “I visited, and I liked the school and the coach. They have a good team; it’s one of the best in the conference, skillwise.”

Klemm hasn’t chosen a college yet, but she has options: the University of San Diego, a Division I program, and Division III schools Whittier College and Lewis & Clark College. Klemm is also undecided on a major but said she is considering speech pathology.

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