Porterville College Softball head coach Vickie Dugan has seen a lot over her 20 years at the college. But the 2017 season go in any direction. With just four starters returning from last season, Dugan will need to get contributions from some key newcomers for her Pirates to contend in a tough Central Valley Conference.
"Last year's team had a little more experience," said Dugan. "But this year's team is well bonded. It is a very coachable group. We have a variety of players who can play multiple positions."
Dugan will look to sophomores Jayme Knauer (Visalia, CA/Mt. Whitney HS), Britnei Murray (Patterson, CA/Patterson HS), Hannah Grimes (Tehachapi, CA/Tehachapi HS), and Sophia Chamberlain (Bakersfield, CA/South HS) to provide leadership this spring.
Knauer was an All-Central Valley Conference honorable mention selection last season after splitting time in the circle and at the middle infield positions. Murray was off to a fine start last season and was hitting .302 before an injury ended her year. Grimes and Chamberlain also return to pitch for the Pirates to help form an experienced staff.
As for newcomers, Dugan expects good things from freshmen Taylor Maddox (Pleasanton, TX/Pleasanton HS), Mckenzie Hendricks (Idaho Falls, ID/Bonneville HS), and Julianne Huerta (Atwater, CA/Buhach Colony HS), as well as sophomore transfer Raleen Torres (Lemoore, CA/Lemoore HS).
"Maddox out of Texas is a solid hitter and will see time at catcher and shortstop," said Dugan. "Hendricks from Idaho has a good stretch at first base and will be a good hitter. Huerta comes from Atwater and is a very good blocking catcher. Torres played one year at College of the Sequoias and covers a lot of territory in the outfield."
The Pirates will look to improve on their 10-22 overall record and 4-14 mark in conference play last season. But Dugan doesn't have a specific numbers of wins in mind as goal for her squad.
"We want to improve each and every day," she said. "Defense is always stressed here, so we want to work toward a .930 fielding average."
Not to be overlooked are the impressive academic accolades the Pirates have achieved in recent years. Last year, thanks to a 3.264 grade point average, the PC softball team was named a 2015-16 Easton/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Junior College All-Academic Team. Also, five members from that Pirates squad earned Easton/NFCA JC Scholar-Athlete honors.
"We want to continue to be ranked among the top 25 in the nation in GPA," Dugan added.
Porterville ranked 22nd overall in the nation and was just one of two California community college programs to be honored with the team award last year.
The Pirates recently opened the 2017 season with a pair of losses at the West Valley College tournament on Feb. 4. PC will play their next four games at home, beginning on Feb. 17 when it hosts De Anza College and Hartnell College. The Pirates open CVC play on Feb. 28 at Cerro Coso College.