Oakdale High’s varsity softball team returns four Valley Oak All League selections from a year ago, and selfishly stacks all four in a gauntlet of an opening order for opposing pitchers in 2012.
Speed specialist Ghianna Falconi, savvy scorer Kaila Olson, sharp-swinging Sarah Peterson and stalwart slugger Shelby Cordova represent a collective 1,2,3,4 knockout punch at the top of the order this season.
The four led Oakdale to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals a season ago and have played huge roles in Oakdale’s 6-0-1 start to 2012.
“I think this is the best talent we have ever had from the top of the lineup to the bottom,” No. 4 hitter, Cordova, said. “I feel like us four at the top of the order are the four leaders in the lineup and we know what it takes to get the job done.”
Cordova made noise last year when her first season at the varsity level was coupled with a barrage of home runs that put her in immediate contention with 2011 senior Brianna Parker (now at Texas Southern University) for the most home runs in a varsity career.
The third baseman was joined by junior left fielder, Peterson, on the All VOL first team a season ago, while Falconi (senior centerfielder) and Olson (senior shortstop) were second team selections.
Falconi, Peterson and Cordova had three hits each as Oakdale punished Atwater 13-3 in five innings during the first game of the Ceres Tournament on March 9. Sophomore Anneliese Davis tossed the win for Oakdale and watched her senior counterpart Shelby Reali deliver a pair of terrific performances from the hill elsewhere in the tournament. Reali stifled Central Catholic for just one hit during a 1-1 deadlock the same day, and later managed a stunning no-hitter against Grace Davis on March 10. Reali was one walk away from a perfect game and saw Olson (3 for 4), Peterson (double) and Lauren Sanders (two RBIs) all come up big in a five-run sixth inning.
Oakdale had overcome Riverbank in their previous game after a 2-0 Bruin lead into five innings. Falconi erased the lead with a two-RBI single in the top of the fifth while Peterson repeated the feat two at bats later and Cordova belted a two-RBI triple in the midst of a nine-run rally. Hanna Holland, Melinda Koppinger and speedy pinch-runner Natalie Faries scored the first three runs of the Oakdale scoring barrage.
Stephanie Fauria (senior) reached base twice during the rally and represents one more figure from last year’s section semifinalists that included Davis (sophomore), Francesca Orvis (junior), Sanders (sophomore) and pitcher Rylie Pena (sophomore).
Between the four seniors, five juniors and six sophomores, Oakdale has plenty of offensive weapons and defensive depth. They showcased that depth during a 3-0-1 run through their tourney pool.
“The Ceres Tournament was a good test for us,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. “We hit the ball well and got solid pitching from Shelby Reali and Anneliese Davis.”
Oakdale won’t have to wait long to test their skills against the best teams from VOL. The Mustangs host returning D-IV champion, Sierra, on Tuesday, March 20.