Christopher High softball coach Amanda Tellez has become adept at juggling lineups and adapting to the whims of instability of the high school game.
But the 2023 season has been particularly challenging for the Cougars, who are relatively inexperienced compared to the premier teams and on top of that have sustained multiple injuries to key players.
Add all that up and it’s another year to grow for Christopher, which entered the week 2-2 in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Santa Teresa East Division.
“Oh yeah, big time,” Tellez said, when asked if this season was a growth/development year, moments after a 17-0 league loss to Sobrato on April 26. “We have 28 total [players] in the program [JV and varsity combined], and so many girls move up and down it’s never really consistent.”
Despite the challenges to the roster, Tellez said there are positives to go around. Left fielder Melissa Lugo made a couple of nice defensive plays vs. Sobrato, whether it was fielding a hit perfectly and getting the ball back to the infield to prevent another run from scoring in the bottom of the third inning, or making a running catch on a deep flyball an inning later.
“From last year, Melissa has improved a lot with her slapping and getting on base,” Tellez said. “I see a lot more confidence with her which has really helped her game, and she helps motivate the team, especially as a leadoff batter using her tools and speed.”
Tellez said junior second baseman Zoe Griffin has also taken her game up a notch this season and is one of the top leaders on the team.
“Zoe has really stepped it up with her bat and glove,” Tellez said. “I see her more relaxed, and she’s making diving plays and been really on fire with her bat.”
Fellow junior Liliana Alvarez has been solid at catcher, blocking a lot of pitches in the dirt while throwing girls out trying to steal or advance an extra base.
“Right now it seems like she’s throwing a runner out once every game, which is really good,” Tellez said.
Chanel Lucio has stepped in as the No. 1 starter as a freshman, making tremendous progress since the start of the season. Tellez appreciates Lucio’s grit to “fight through these games.” Shortstop Bella Espinosa executed a perfect bunt single in the Sobrato game, and Brianna Diaz Cruz had a single. Mariah Lira, Jersey Paredes, Jada Lujan and Brooklyn Sax rounded out the lineup for the Sobrato contest.
Mackenzie Garrido and Olivia Felix are also on the varsity roster. Christopher lost two key and experienced starters in Bella James and Chevelle Quistian, who suffered concussions in a 18-2 win over Oak Grove on April 19. They’re out for an indefinite period of time as they undergo concussion protocols.
“That was pretty unfortunate because concussions are always scary,” Tellez said. “It set us back a little bit numbers-wise, but I still feel like we can compete with the key players we have. This season we’ve been having to move some girls out of position, and they’ve had to get comfortable doing that. So we’re working through that, too, where girls are stepping into roles they maybe haven’t filled before and learning to work together in those new spots has been a challenge for us.”