Vikings have eyes set on making postseason |

Vikings have eyes set on making postseason

Steve Yinging, Tribune sports editor

Jim GrantSouth Tahoe High junior pitcher Erika Schimmel has eight pitches to challenge hitters this season

Teammates aren’t bickering. Pitching and hitting are pluses. Home games are really home games.

If the South Tahoe High softball team can bring the leather in 2003, the Vikings could do something that hasn’t been accomplished during the players’ lifetimes — qualify for the postseason.

Last season the Vikings finished fifth in the seven-team Sierra Division, narrowly missing the playoffs.

“I see our potential. The only thing we need to work on hard is our defense,” said fifth-year Viking skipper Rich Barna. “We have to make plays behind our pitchers and that’s what we are really going to focus on.”

Pitching is routinely at the core of any successful club on the diamond. Barna has two experienced arms and more depth than he’s had the past three years.

Senior Libby Bigelow, a dropball specialist, and junior Erika Schimmel, who has more junk than Fred Sanford, give opposing hitters a different look on the mound.

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“Each pitcher is a plus and none of us are the same, so they won’t be expecting anything,” said Bigelow, a three-year varsity veteran who will play first base when she’s not pitching.

Barna also plans to pitch junior Melissa Lucero. Lucero also plays in the outfield and Schimmel will form the other half of the battery when she’s not pitching.

“They all complement each other,” Barna said. “Libby and Erica are both right-handers but pitch completely different from each other and Melissa is left handed.

“We have girls throwing breaking balls now. As juniors, they’re breaking stuff is starting to work.”

Bigelow has also added a screwball to her arsenal, giving her more ammunition in what has become one of the toughest leagues on the West Coast.

“It’s very intimidating, but we’ve started to get to the point where we’re gaining more confidence in ourselves,” Bigelow said.

Other key returners are Erin Jamison, who will move from first base to shortstop; Kylie Novasel, who will catch Schimmel; and third baseman Alisha Bettencourt.

Unlike past seasons, the Vikings aren’t concerned that they’ll have to rely on one or two bats to carry the offense.

“We have a lot of offensive power this year,” Bigelow said. “We have a pretty strong heart of the lineup.”

Bigelow brings experience into the batter’s box, Schimmel has quick hands, big things are expected of Lucero and Novasel evokes images of the Babe.

“Kylie is the female version of Babe Ruth,” Barna said. “When she makes contact with the ball, she just drives it.”

In past years, the Vikings have split time between Tahoe Valley Elementary School and the “Field of Dreams I” for their home games. This season, the Vikings will play on the field originally intended for them — the newly dressed up diamond adjacent to “Field of Dreams I.”

“A lot of community members have participated and helped,” said Barna, who oversaw the latest project, which called for the addition of two dugouts, 12,000 feet of sod, a new infield surface and sprinklers.

“They have done such a good job with the field, it’s too bad we can’t use them sooner,” Bigelow said.

Everything seems to be in place for a big season for the Vikings.

“My goal is for us to make the playoffs, that would be a perfect way to go out,” Bigelow said.

Added Barna, “They want to work hard and they practice well. This is the first time they like being around each other. They are a real essence of a team.”

The Vikings open their season today at Hug in Reno.

2003 softball schedule

3/11 at Hug 3:30 p.m.

3/15 at Carson (DH) 10 a.m.

3/18 at Dayton 3:30 p.m.

3/22 at Wooster (DH) 10 a.m.

3/25 at Douglas 3:30 p.m.

3/29 at N. Valleys (DH) 10 a.m.

4/1 Wooster 3:30 p.m.

4/4 Reno 3:30 p.m.

4/8 N. VALLEYS 3:30 p.m.

4/12 HUG (DH) 1 p.m.

4/15 RENO (DH) 2 p.m.

4/17 CHESTER, S.C. 3:30 p.m.

4/18 Reed tourney TBA

4/21-22 Dayton tourney TBA

4/29 CARSON 3:30 p.m.

4/30 DAYTON 3:30 p.m.

5/3 DOUGLAS (DH) 1 p.m.

5/7-9 Regionals TBA

5/14-16 State tourney TBA

Coach: Rich Barna, fifth year

Last year: 5-13, fifth in Sierra Division

Opener: Today at Hug

Keys to season: Defense