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Lady Jaguars off to hot start, win first three in softball



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Kiana Diefenbach (13) rips a double. The Jags’ are off to a red-hot start; winning their first three ballgames.
March 13, 2013
"Pitching and defense are going to be the keys to our season," said Valley Center varsity softball coach Bill Dunckel of the 2013 campaign, and those keys have already unlocked three big wins to open the new year.

The Lady Jaguars have allowed a total of only four runs in their first three games thanks to stellar pitching and timely defense. But the Valley Center bats have been on fire as well, as the Lady Jags have averaged six runs per game and have accumulated a team batting average of .278 so far.

"We have good pitching with Emma [Sloman] and Nia {Hutton}, so I'm confident that we're going to be in ballgames this year," Dunckel added. "But we have to be able to play defense and score a few runs."

Sloman has earned the win in each of the first three games this season, allowing only two earned runs on ten total hits, with 19 strikeouts and only one walk. And while Hutton has pitched only three innings so far, she hasn't allowed a run or a hit, and has only allowed one baserunner.

The first action of the season has been in the Warhawk Tournament and the first game for Valley Center came on the road at Christian High School on March 1. The Lady Jaguars scored big in the middle innings to take a 6–2 win.

The score stayed close, with each team scoring a run in the third, until the top of the fourth, when the Lady Jags brought in four runs to jump out into the lead. They added another run in the top of the seventh to seal the win.

Senior left fielder Stephanie Koishor smacked a solo home run in the big win, while sophomore catcher Suki Turner went two-for-two and drove in a run and both senior Anndrea Torres and sophomore Brie Dunckel each added two hits and an RBI. Sophomore Madison Calbert also added had a hit and an RBI, while Sloman and Jasmine Contreras each added a hit. Torres, Calbert, Koishor, Hutton, Kiana Diefenbach and Hana Gilbert each scored a run as well.

Sloman pitched a complete game to get the win, allowing only two runs—one earned—on two hits, with eight strikeouts.

Then the Lady Jaguars played at Our Lady of Peace on Wednesday, where they fell behind early but stormed back with a big inning late in the game to take a 5–2 win.

Both teams scored once in the first inning, but the Lady Pilots scored again in the third to take a 2–1 lead. Valley Center came back to tie the game with a run in the fourth, then blew the game open with three runs in the top of the sixth that put the win on ice.

Sloman was electric on both offense and defense, as she lit up the scoreboard with a triple, a double and an RBI. She also pitched another complete game to get the win, allowing one earned run on seven hits, with five strikeouts.

Torres, Koishor and Dunckel each had a hit in the game, while Dunckel scored twice and Torres, Hutton and Contreras scored once each. Leilani Diefenbach added an RBI as well.

The Lady Jags played their home opener on Monday against Mission Bay, and not only hit the ball all over the yard, but completely stifled the Lady Buccaneers' offense to take a 7–0 win.

Hutton was the star on offense, as she smacked a two-run home run in the second inning. Dunckel added a pair of base hits, while Torres, Sloman, Contreras and Kiana Diefenbach each added a hit. Torres, Dunckel, Koishor, Gilbert, Hutton, and both Diefenbach sisters each scored a run in the game as well.

Along with the great pitching the Lady Jaguars have this season, Coach Dunckel says that each of the girls on the team brings a lot to the table.

The team graduated four key seniors from last year's team—Alex Scoles, Raelyn Rodriguez, Anna Luna and Mindy Faber—but have three seniors ready to lead this season. Gilbert, Koishor and Torres are all coming off outstanding seasons last year and are playing well to begin the 2013 season.

The three juniors on the team—Sloman, Hutton and Contreras—will play key roles on both offense and defense, while the Lady Jags have a quartet of outstanding sophomores—Turner, Dunckel, Calbert and Kiana Diefenbach—who are ready to step into a prominent role on the team. And the squad's lone freshman, Leilani Diefenbach, fills in as the backup catcher and should be a consistent role player throughout the season.

The Lady Jaguars continue in the Warhawk Tournament this week. They have already played at home against Fallbrook, one of the top teams in the county, on Wednesday. A win in that game would advance Valley Center to the tournament semifinals, which would take place on Saturday.

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Karen Bates