Desert Vista’s girls softball team is getting some on-the-job training this year.
The Thunder made it to the state 5A-I playoff last season, but lost six veterans to graduation last spring.
“We’re very, very young this year, and we’re going to make some mistakes,” said Desert Vista coach Chris Crowl. “But when you have a young team you have to expect that.”
Even the Thunder’s starting pitcher, Emily Panther, is a sophomore, but she has a veteran senior, Erika Cade, to back her up when Cade isn’t in the outfield.
“Emily and Erika will battle for the pitching spot,” Crowl said. “Erika is a little ahead right now, but we need her in the outfield so Emily is going to have to step up and take the leadership role. What is nice is that we have two options.”
Crowl is counting on Cade to take the point as a senior.
“As a veteran outfielder and pitcher, she’ll be leading us and we’ll be a lot more competitive this year,” Crowl said.
The Thunder are also returning junior Rhianna Ricciotti, senior Kelsey Nordahl, senior Hannah Bapst, junior Michelle Stauffer and sophomore Sara Zorker to the lineup. Zorker missed most of her freshman season with injuries.
Senior Bri Van Gosen, who had some playing time as a freshman but didn’t play as a junior, is also back in the Thunder lineup.
“We don’t have a lot of experience, but there is a lot of potential there,” Crowl said.
After years of playing in the four-team Central Region, Desert Vista is getting a look at some new competition in the Fiesta Region this spring.
“We had some tough teams in our league like Mountain Pointe, Corona and Basha, and we played them three times a season,” Crowl said.
This season the Thunder will see Phoenix Xavier, Chandler Hamilton, Mesa, Mesa Red Mountain and Chandler.
“We’ll be all right,” Crowl said. “We have some growing to do, but I’m optimistic we can get to where we want to be this year.”