In his 11th season leading the Sparks softball team, head coach Frank Avilla believes this is a rebuilding year for the program but sees promise with his young team.
“Our goal for this year is to qualify for the playoffs,” Avilla said. “Whatever else we accomplish is icing on the cake.”
For this young team to make it to post-season play, Avilla believes that the girls must be consistent on the pitching mound and also at the plate. They also have to listen and learn from players who have been there before. This means that the older girls have to take their younger teammates under their wings if they want to have a shot at winning.
One player he is looking forward to seeing in games is sophomore pitcher Krystal Parker. She has been working hard to improve her game and she’s a good all-around athlete, according to Avilla.
“She’s been hitting the stuffing out of balls lately,” he said.
Avilla expects to rely on three seniors, partly for performance but mostly for leadership on this young team. These three are short-stop Jasmine Hernandez, catcher Gabby Durante, and third baseman Michelle Vega. Durante and Vega were all-league honorable mentions last year.
While most of the girls on the team know the game well and have plenty of experience playing it, there is one girl who has none of those things.
Yen Nyg, a senior, has never played before and this season will be her first ever softball experience.
“She’s got good speed,” said Avilla. She’s learning the game quickly and her teammates are speeding the process along. For a girl like her, it’s rewarding to see improvement in her knowledge of the game.”
A young team can be difficult to coach because the girls can drift in and out of focus. That’s why Avilla’s biggest expectations for the girls are to simply show up to practice and be prepared.
“I just want them to want to learn and be enthusiastic about it. I want them to want to get better,” he said. “It’s coming together though. We have good team speed and the chemistry is getting better. I want us to shoot for the stars because anything can happen.”
The Railroaders’ first game is this Saturday in Carson against Incline. It hopefully will be the beginning of a journey to a playoff berth for Avilla and company.