Los Altos High softball coach Robert Herrera last week described his 2023 team as “fearless” – and with good reason.
Ten players returned from last year’s squad, which didn’t let a .500 regular season derail its dreams of prospering in the playoffs. The Eagles went as far as possible, following a Central Coast Section Division IV title with a trip to the Northern California Division V finals.
“With what they’ve done, they know what to expect,” Herrera said of his players’ approach to this season.
And that recent success seems to have only increased Los Altos’ thirst to be first.
“They got a taste of it – and loved it,” the coach said. “The goal is one game at a time, but they feel that’s where they’ve got to be.”
So far, the Eagles are 2-2. Los Altos had two other non-league games rained out. League play starts this week, and Herrera hopes his team is ready for what awaits in the competitive SCVAL De Anza Division.
“We’re not practicing,” he said Thursday as yet another storm hit the Bay Area. “We’ve got to keep them sharp.”
The Eagles couldn’t have looked much sharper in their season opener, walloping Woodside 13-2 March 2 behind the bats of pitcher Sophia Asar (4-for-4) and shortstop Aly Barrios (3-for-4 with a triple and five RBIs).
“We looked like we were in midseason form; we didn’t make mistakes and we were aggressive,” Herrera said. “Then Watsonville was a different story.”
Los Altos dropped both its games at the Watsonville High School Tournament that next weekend: 7-3 to Stevenson and 7-6 to the host team.
The Eagles bounced back last week, topping San Mateo 7-4. Host Los Altos racked up 12 hits in the March 7 home win. First baseman Maggie Byrne, who missed the first three games due to an ankle injury sustained in the basketball playoffs, went 3-for-3 and drove in a run. Left fielder Ainsley Witte was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
“Ainsley is off to a heck of a start,” Herrera said of the senior, who is 8-for-10 at the plate this season. “She’s been on fire.”
Witte’s .800 batting average leads the team and Asar is next at .545. The junior is also the Eagles’ ace, as she was last year.
“She’s still our workhorse,” Herrera said of Asar, who has pitched all four games. “She’s picked up her velocity this year and is mastering more of her pitches. And she’s unflappable.”
Asar’s practically irreplaceable as well; Los Altos doesn’t have a second starter.
“We’re trying to develop sophomore Kaylan Cox,” the coach said. “She has potential but needs refinement, and we’re trying to get her mechanics in sync. Aly (Barrios) has agreed to pitch, which she’s done in the past, but she’s a key player at shortstop.”
The senior has been flawless in the field this season and is hitting .385 with nine RBIs. Barrios also has four stolen bases in as many attempts.
Barrios, Byrne and fellow senior Kaitlyn Smiley – who Herrera called “our center fielder extraordinaire” – serve as team captains.
“They’re leaders by example,” the coach said. “They’re very supportive.”
Utility player Lauren Han, outfielder Kelly Zoglin and infielder Sarah Zoglin join Witte as the other seniors on the roster of 16.
“It’s a good veteran team,” Herrera said. “Most of them have been here since they were freshmen, which really helps.”
Whether all that experience will lead to a league title – and more – is still to be determined, but the coach expects the Eagles to at least contend for the De Anza Division crown.
“We should be in the hunt,” he said. “Los Gatos has a heck of a pitcher and Milpitas should vie for first or second, but I hope we’ll be in the top-three mix.”
Los Altos, which was supposed to open league play against Cupertino Tuesday, is scheduled to visit rival Mountain View 4 p.m. Thursday.
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