“We’re looking better than we have in years past,” Sparks softball coach Frank Avilla said. “They’re more disciplined and look like they’re more versed. They look like they’re more enthusiastic. They’re all getting along, and we’re excited to see the season that lies ahead of us.”
It’s no secret what the Achilles’ heel has been for the Railroaders in the past. If the defense commits 10 errors in a game, it’s going to be a long day for the Maroon and Gold.
“We’ve got tough athletes. With the ladies we have playing in the middle, we’re going to be able to play catch,” Avilla said. “That’s what this game is all about. You have to learn the short game here, too, at this level. I think we’re going to be fine with it. It lies in their hands, but I feel like we’re versed in playing catch with each other. I’m looking forward to seeing that this year.”
Sparks should have a solid pitching staff this spring. Jocelyn Vasquez was a first team all-league pitcher as a freshman a year ago and she returns to anchor the staff. Junior Madisyn Lock was an honorable mention pitcher last season, and Avilla expects good things from junior pitcher Marissa Cossio, who played on JV last year.
“I think we’re going to match up. We start Friday, so we’ll see,” Avilla said of the pitching. “I do know all our pitchers have put in time in the offseason to throw. Every one of them was at conditioning. Even the girls who were out playing other sports were working on it. As a pitcher, you have to throw pretty much all year in order to master your craft. By no means do I feel like we’re mastered, but we’re getting there. We have a long way to go. We’re taking great strides in the right direction.”
Providing some leadership in her fourth year with the program will be senior Riley Regas. She will catch and split time at third base. Sparks also has junior all-league infielder Stephanie Miller back, and Michelle Cardenas was a second-team all-league outfielder.
Sparks did get a good turnout for its summer and fall ball slates, which will hopefully carry over to the spring season. Avilla said 17 girls played summer ball.
“I’m pretty sure things are going to start looking up here at Sparks High on the softball field,” the veteran coach said.
Sparks opens the season Friday in a non-league doubleheader at home against Hug, which is part of the Pershing County tournament. The twin bill is slated for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The Railroaders will then head to Lovelock Saturday for a matchup with Carlin at 9 a.m. and then face the hosts at 11 a.m.