Softball Slides into a Stronger Season


Jaein Kim

Junior Lauren McMurray carefully eyes the pitcher as she winds up to hit. Players must be prepared for a variety of pitches ranging from fastballs, change-ups, curveballs, drop-balls and rise-balls, all of which differ in angle, rotation and speed depending on the slightest changes in grip or wrist position.

Jaein Kim and Charlotte Cao

Ten female athletes filled with satisfaction and pride walked off the field in celebration of Portola High’s first ever varsity softball win on Feb. 21 at Saddleback High. After a 14-game losing streak in the 2018-2019 season, this win was a tremendous feat for the team. 

“Everyone was really proud, especially since a lot of us have never played this level of softball before,” outfielder and sophomore Maddie Amlen said. “[Winning] was really just a group effort; everybody worked so hard, and we were super excited about it.”

Although the varsity girls’ softball program was established last year, this season is the first with an official full-time coach. Head coach Amanda Lovette interned as a part-time coach last year, which made it difficult for the team to have consistent daily practices.

“One of the biggest challenges last year was that we didn’t have a full-time head coach,” captain and junior Lauren McMurray said. “It was very rough on all the girls … and that caused some of our players to leave the team.”

After losing almost half of the returning players, the majority of this year’s team are underclassmen with the exception of McMurray and pitcher and senior Kelly Candelario. Despite the program’s lack of experience, Lovette’s strategic coaching has the team working as a singular well-oiled machine. 

“We focus a lot on fundamentals, and there’s a lot of young talent,” Lovette said. “Whether it be making a good play during a game or striving to get a double or a triple by the end of season, I encourage the girls to set goals that are reachable step-by-step. Start little and try to reach those bigger goals over time.”

Communication on and off the field aids the team’s performance as well. By placing an emphasis on unity, members of the program identify themselves as not only teammates, but also as friends and family.

“It’s a trust sport,” McMurray said. “As a catcher, I need to trust my infield that they will get the ball where it needs to be, and they will be able to field it. And it’s also trusting the girls personally so you can build a team; it’s all linked through trust.”

McMurray said the team hopes that their close-knit bonds will translate onto the field and that their performance will soon match those of other schools in the Pacific Coast League. From pitcher to catcher to basemen and fielders, all players must function together for optimal performance.

“Of course there’s going to be people who don’t get along in certain situations, but when we step on the field we’re all family,” Lovette said. “We all respect each other, and they all work hard. And that’s the philosophy of our program; whatever’s going on outside of the field stays outside of the field. At both games and practices, once you’re on the field, your mind’s on softball, and you’re there to play.”