Youthful Vikings are ready to go |

Youthful Vikings are ready to go

Jeremy Evans
South Tahoe High pitcher Annamay McCracken winds up during practice Wednesday at STHS. McCracken is one of only four juniors on this year's softball team.

The South Tahoe Vikings return only four players from last year’s squad that won only four games. They don’t have a single senior on the roster. They play in a league has produced four of the last five Nevada 4A state champions and also boast this year’s favorite to win state.

So what’s got South Tahoe feeling so good about this year’s team? Much like the mantra of the Chicago Cubs, it’s all about next season.

“It’s bad for us that we are so young, but at the same time it’s great because we’re going to be exactly the same team next year,” said junior returner Mollie Novasel “So we’re going to be twice as strong. It’s just a huge learning experience this year that will help us out in the long run.”

The Vikings, who haven’t won more than six games in almost a decade, will likely start six underclassmen in their starting lineup, and their entire outfield will be made up of either sophomores or freshmen. Sophomore Danielle Lowe, an all-league selection last season, returns at center field, while junior Charlotte Lee will team up with Novasel and Jen Bigelow in the infield.

Freshman Kelly Bartlett currently is challenging Novasel for the team’s top pitching spot. But regardless of which player emerges, South Tahoe should have a decent starting rotation, and Annamay McCracken adds quality depth behind those two.

“The biggest thing is we’re young,” said assistant coach Chris Barna. “But in the same breath, we have very high expectations for these girls. They’re very young, but they are very talented. We just have to figure out the game now. That’s our biggest task. The early part of the season will be rough. We’ve seen a lot of young mistakes, which we’re working on.”

The Vikings open the season against Damonte Ranch on Friday at 3:30 p.m., then they begin Sierra Division play on Saturday against Reno. South Tahoe’s first 10 games are on the road, and its tentative home opener is scheduled for April 16 against Wooster.

“I’m really excited for this season,” said Bigelow, a junior utility player who earned all-league honors as a sophomore. “We have a good bunch of new girls, but I’m more excited about next year because it’s my senior year. We all get along pretty well now. This season will be one that gets better throughout.”

Douglas, which has three players on its roster that have already signed with Division I schools (Nevada, Georgia Tech and Columbia) is considered the team to beat. Although the Tigers advanced to the state title game last season, Carson, Wooster and North Valleys figure to challenge Douglas.

Even though the Vikings lost six seniors off last year’s team, Barna still isn’t excluding South Tahoe from the playoff picture.

“Once this team figures out who they are, because right now they’re running around without a purpose or without a leader, we could possibly get into the playoffs this year,” Barna said. “Which is saying a lot since we’ve been nowhere near the playoffs.”

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