STHS softball eyes playoff run in new league |

STHS softball eyes playoff run in new league

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – In softball, perhaps more than any other team sport, one player – as long as that player is a pitcher – can single-handedly lead a team to victory. South Tahoe softball coach Steve Kolesnik believes Mel Smith will lead the Vikings to plenty of victories this season.

“When we had meetings, I told the girls that my first goal was to make the playoffs,” said Kolesnik, the Vikings’ first-year varsity coach. “Mel raised her hand in the back and said ‘Heck with that. We’re going to win state. So our No. 1 team goal is go and win state. Everybody believes it can be done, especially because everybody is seeing how Mel is throwing.”

It’s certainly a lofty goal for a team that has struggled in the past to even make the playoffs in the Northern 4A. But there is renewed confidence now that the Vikings are competing in the Northern 3A. South Tahoe (3-2) has won all three of its games this season against 3A opponents, including a 6-1 victory over Hug on Tuesday in Reno.

“With the new league, we’re going to be more competitive obviously,” Kolesnik said. “We’re not going to be playing all the 4A schools. I think everybody here is thinking playoffs.”

The team’s fate likely falls on the arm of Smith, a senior hurler who is considered one of the league’s top pitchers. Smith struck out 17 batters in the win over the Hawks, which Kolesnik believes is a school-record for strikeouts in a game.

“We’re going great for only being indoors so far,” Smith said. “I think being in the new league is a lot better for us and we have more of a chance. I have no question that we will go to the playoffs and go to state. Every practice we’re getting better and better.”

Kolesnik, who replaces Anneliese Neitling who resigned in the offseason, inherits a team that lost six seniors off last year’s 1-20 squad. He will be counting on the hitting of Sid Loomis and Mel Sabac. Sabac, who didn’t play the past two seasons, has four two-hit games and nine RBI already this season.

“Every position on this team is open,” Kolesnik said. “You gotta earn your position this year. I have maybe two set positions out of nine, but I have a pretty good idea of where I’d like to put people. I expect Sid Loomis to be a big bat and Mel will be a big bat, but we have plenty of other girls who can contribute.”

One of those players is sophomore speedster Brittany Sanchez, who had a breakout freshman season and is one of several returning varsity players.

“This team is a lot closer and we’re not making as many errors,” Sanchez said. “I think we have more of a chance this year, and it helps that we have Mel. Mel is a lot more accurate and faster than the other pitchers … she obviously really helps us.”

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