Since its 2016 CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship, Lompoc High softball hasn’t won a playoff game.
Now, with Michelle Hill and Hannah Larsh all that’s left from that title-winning team and some returning juniors and sophomores back on the LHS diamond, this year’s Braves hope to finally get over that first round mountain – and show they have another deep run left in them.
For Hill, the returning senior wants to go out of LHS with a bang.
“I want to make the last year count. It is my last year and I’m not moving forward in my softball career. This year, we want to put everything on the table,” Hill said. “We’re going to be a team this year, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to have fun.”
Lompoc was supposed to start its season earlier in February against Santa Maria and St. Joseph, but the recent string of storms have forced postponements on those games. Instead, the Braves hope to start the year against San Luis Obispo on Tuesday at 4 p.m., weather permitting.
The Braves have been a CIF Southern Section playoff contender for nearly two decades. And last year’s softball team welcomed back coaching veteran Marjorie Ledgerwood – who guided LHS to a 17-10 overall mark. Lompoc’s season, though, ended with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of St. Joseph in the CIF-SS D5 wildcard round.
And in the previous year, Lompoc fell 9-2 against an Arroyo Grande softball team that was coached by current Knights head coach John Welch.
This year’s Braves not only welcome back Hill and Larsh, but Sierra Preston returns to help solidify the circle at pitcher. Preston is another one with high team and individual goals this spring as she assumes more of a leadership position.
“For us, it’s to work as a team and stay focused,” Preston said. “Plus we want to bond better as a team. I want to hit better and get on the mound more. And we need to communicate more, play as a team and have fun.”
Lompoc will be moving on without the likes of All-Los Padres League members Lexi Porter and Jayden Andrade – who are now on the Hancock College softball roster for the 2019 season. The Braves will also be without designated hitter Mya Mendoza, who is giving track and field a try this spring.
But, that doesn’t mean this Braves team is completely brand new.
Kendra Hockett returns, as does Heidi Cardenas. Mariah Villalobos and Haley Larsh additionally give LHS experience from last year.
Hill says either way, LHS will be banking on new cohesion and some underclassmen to help energize this year’s group.
“Every year is a new chemistry because we had a lot of leaders last year, but this year is just me and Hannah. So we’ll need our underclassmen to step up more,” Hill said.
Of course, the Braves will also enter this season with aspirations of avoiding becoming one-and-done in the CIF playoffs.
“That would be great, especially in this league (the Channel League). It would be great to get past that round,” Hill said.