Vikings done playing ‘soft’ ball |

Vikings done playing ‘soft’ ball

South Tahoe High’s new softball coach and his players may not be too far off base in making a pitch for a few more wins.

“We’re going to be very competitive,” said first-year Vikings head coach Rich Barna, who is at the helm of the varsity program after being the skipper of the junior varsity the past two years. “Last year, (as senior) Missy Johnson was saying we were actually in games. This year, we’re going to take it over the edge and win them.”

If this 2000 team becomes the first Vikings squad to do that since 1985, the formula will be a simple one. The Vikings are going to have to be solid on defense, opportunistic and smart on offense, and they’re not going to be able to take any innings off.

“We’re just going to D up and win by one or two runs,” Barna said. “I’m confident this team can go to a playoff this year.”

And the other factor is the big one: If the Vikings are going to make the pitch for that breakthrough season, they’re going to have to throw themselves into it. Literally.

“Our pitching is pretty good this year,” said junior Jill Barna, the coach’s daughter, who has a good perspective on the Vikings staff as the starting catcher.

South Tahoe did finish 2-22 in the Northern Nevada 4A Division II last year, but Rich Barna didn’t inherit a bare cupboard from departed skipper Jan Johnson. The battery is testament to that, as Jill Barna, staff ace Vanessa Porter, Heather Roderick and Corrine Edwards are three of 10 juniors who played varsity ball as sophomores. While all four pitchers – the three juniors and Johnson, who will play shortstop when she’s not pitching – are developing their arsenals, Porter is the staff’s gem.

“She’s improved, and she’s got three solid pitches right now,” Rich Barna said, praising his starter’s drop pitch – softball’s equivalent of a hard curve. “Her drop pitch is really off-balancing the other hitters.”

Preseason scrimmages with Douglas and Dayton highlighted what Porter can do on the mound, as well as what South Tahoe needs to do at the plate and in the field. Saturday at 3A Dayton, Porter recorded seven strikeouts in the equivalent of five innings, and the Vikings committed just three errors in the scrimmage. Against Douglas on Friday, South Tahoe committed four.

South Tahoe has added a nuance to the phrase “inside pitch” during the preseason, though. Typical Sierra spring weather – snow – has moved practices inside. It’s harder to duplicate fielding drills inside than pitching, so the Vikings have tried to make the most of their limited space.

“We do a lot of game situations, just some fielding and stuff, just to kind of prepare for games as much as we can,” Johnson said.

Porter finds her mirror in the field in Johnson. While South Tahoe’s players listed their fielding as a strength, Johnson is the key in the field. Johnson will play shortstop, with freshman Kendra Terry at first, Roderick at second, Edwards at third and Jessica Cerasoli, Tammy Cowan and Stefanie Terry in the outfield. Johnson and Cerasoli are the only seniors on the team, and Kendra Terry the only freshman – the rest are juniors.

“She’s competitive, she works hard, she’s got a good work ethic, and she helps the younger players get better,” Rich Barna said of Johnson.

Strangely, despite having solid fielders, South Tahoe doesn’t have the speed behind the plate to manufacture runs with steals. So that makes hitting more important. Barna required players who made the varsity this year to be able to slap the ball and bunt from both sides to make the most of their opportunities in a pitcher-powered league. Barna described his Vikings as a good-hitting team that doesn’t post many strikeouts.

The players listed the games against Fallon (March 9 and May 2), Wooster (April 1 and May 2), Douglas (March 14 and May 4), Galena (March 24 and April 4) and Carson (March 16 and April 6) loomed large on the schedules in the players’ minds. But if the Vikings are to shift numbers from the right side of the won-lost column to the left, they’re all important.

“I’d like to win some more games this year,” Roderick said.

Jill Barna, a co-captain along with Johnson, agreed:

“In the past, we kind of beat ourselves,” she said. “Nobody beat us. It’d be kind of nice to pull it together.”

Vikings softball:

Last year: 2-22 in Northern Nevada 4A Division II

Manager: Rich Barna (first year)

Players to watch: SS/P Missy Johnson, senior; OF Stefanie Terry, junior; P Vanessa Porter, junior; 2B/P Heather Roderick, junior; P/3B Corrine Edwards, junior; 1B Kendra Terry, freshman

Coach’s key: “(The) key to this league: You’ve got to have a good hurler on the mound, or you’re just not going to be competitive.”

Opener: 3:30 p.m. March 9 at Fallon

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