Gina Garvey

Horizon Honors shortstop Gina Garvey will be heavily counted on to continue the Eagles' success on the softball diamond.

Darryl Webb/AFN file

The area softball teams are going to have a different feel to them in 2013.

Mountain Pointe has a new coach leading the program, while Horizon Honors has the task of trying to keep the program going forward after losing its best ever senior class to graduation.

Then there is Desert Vista.

The Thunder is coming off its first winning season in years. The program has confidence, expectations and the talent to keep it going.

It’s been a long time since Desert Vista, which went 19-12 last season and advanced to the second round of the Division I postseason, could head into an offseason on such a positive note.

“Success can translate from one year to the next and we kept the momentum going,” Thunder coach Chris Crowl said. “The success we had last year came from a lot of hard work and patience.”

Everything is in line for the Thunder to keep it going this year as they return a good portion of last season’s core players.

Senior pitcher Danielle Block was one of the area’s steadiest pitchers and she’s back in the middle of the diamond again. She should post similar numbers to a year ago when she won 18 games with 165 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA.

Offensively there won’t be much of a drop off, especially after the catcher Ali Cerminara (.394, 30 RBIs) returns in mid-March from football surgery.

Until she comes back senior Rebecca Perez (.412, 19 RBI), junior Michaela Duarte (.311, 14 RBI) and senior Naomi Ricciotti (.330, 19 RBI) will be counted on to keep the offense at a high level.

Just as important will be the commitment by the senior class to make sure the success continues.

“With the senior leadership and the experience we have coming back we are aiming to get back into the playoffs and go a little deeper,” Crowl said. “We are going to have a deeper bench, our offense can make things happen and they have been working hard to make sure there is no drop off.”

Mountain Pointe went 13-18 in Melissa Wendell’s final season that went awry during a mid-season six-game losing streak.

Wendell, who stepped down in part because she was named science department chair, is being replaced by Jim Bradford, who helped coach the Desert Ridge baseball program before coming to Mountain Pointe two years ago.

Bradford, who is also head coach of the Pride’s junior varsity football team, inherits a talented but young roster.

Four of the five players expected to be among Mountain Pointe’s most relied on players are sophomores or freshmen.

Sophomore Kristen McCann (3-5, 3.98 ERA, .269, 19 RBI) will take the mound most days, while classmate Hannah Hoban (.415, 16 RBI) will be her battery mate.

Freshman Ana Howard, a pitcher and outfielder, and sophomore corner infielder Corina Goings will also see major innings, while senior shortstop and outfielder Brooke Burchfield will look to make the most of her final year in a Pride uniform.

“Practice has been very good,” Bradford said. “I have gotten to see a lot of players, kind of nice to be a new coach in a program and see every player with fresh eyes. I have a lot of optimism for the future of the program with so many young players being called on to contribute.

“It bodes well for the future success of Mountain Pointe softball.”

Horizon Honors has some quality players back in the fold and should make a run at matching or bettering last year’s 15-8 record after ending in a Division III first-round postseason loss.

The Eagles will have to do it without the services of Shelby Sims, Ashley Hughes, Taylor England, Michaela Downes, all of whom pushed Horizon Honors to a new level in their time.

Senior shortstop Gina Garvey (.628, 15 extra base hits), junior Rachel Irons (.421) and junior first baseman Bailey Volden (.333) will be among those back with the hope of keeping the standard where last year’s team left off.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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