Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. - The Whittier College Softball team will make its sixth straight SCIAC Tournament appearance when it travels to Redlands this weekend.
Whittier (23-15, 13-11 SCIAC) will be the four seed in the four-team tournament and will open play, tomorrow, April 27 beginning at 9:00 a.m. against No. 1 Redlands, while No. 2 Claremont-M-S meets No. 3 Pomona-Pitzer at 11:30 a.m. in the second game of the day.
The Poets for the sixth straight season have qualified for the SCIAC Post Season Tournament with half of them being under head coach Shelley Whitakers tenure. The SCIAC bid also means that four year senior Brenda Thompson will have experienced the SCIAC Postseason for the fourth time in her collegiate career.
The Purple & Gold are carrying momentum into the SCIAC Post Season Tournament after going 12-2 in their last 14 games which includes a three game winning streak to close out the regular season.
The big story this season for Whittier, though, has been the influx of talent in the freshman class, which includes four regular starters: catcher Samantha Mellano (Fullerton, Calif.), left fielder Emi Shimamoto (Santa Clarita, Calif.), second baseman Alexandra Flores (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), and shortstop Jordan Learn (Riverside, Calif.).
The four freshmen have had key roles in the Poet success this year, as Mellano comes in second in homeruns with four and second in RBI's with 24. Shimamoto is leading the team in runs with 27 and is second in hits with 39, doubles with 8, and batting average at .336. She capped off her regular season with a 6-7 effort against Occidental combining for a homerun, three doubles, two runs, and five RBI's and is looking to lead the crop of talented underclassmen into the playoffs.
Learn has also had a stellar season playing both third base and shortstop playing in 35-38 games and has combined for 25 hits, 14 runs, 14 RBI's, and a batting average of .333. Not to be left out is second baseman Flores who rounds out the Poet freshman starters who has filled in nicely in the nine hole finishing the regular season with a team high 9 doubles, to go with 34 hits, 19 runs, and 11 RBI's.
Three players to watch out for entering playoffs include senior outfielder Nikki Mendoza, senior third baseman Denisse Martinez, and sophomore right fielder Mickala Gonzales. Mendoza has provided a spark at the leadoff spot leading the team for the second straight season in batting average at .364 and on base percentage at .453. This season she has combined for 43 hits which includes 5 doubles, 3 triples, and 2 homeruns and has collected 25 runs and 17 RBI's.
Martinez has been a rock at third playing in 32 of the 38 games finishing the regular season with a .321 batting average, which includes five doubles and three home runs. She is third on the team in slugging percentage at .500 and had a breakout day against Pomona-Pitzer on April 14 when she finished 5-9 with two homeruns, six RBI's, and two runs scored. But she came back the next day against Cal Lutheran on April 15 and went 5-7, which included two doubles.
Gonzales who had a sensational freshman year has followed it up with a great second season leading the team in slugging percentage at .543 and homeruns at 6. She is batting .305 playing in all 38 games and has collected 32 hits, 20 runs scored, and a team high 25 RBI's.
On the mound the Poets are led by junior Jessica Rosnack and sophomore Courtney DeLano who both registered double digit wins this season. The Poet pitching staff that includes Anna Cade, Heather Salisbury, and Sara Gazzaniga as a whole led SCIAC in strikeouts.
Rosnack finished the regular season 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA and 57 strikeouts, while Delano finished with a team high 12 wins in 115 innings pitched, an ERA of 4.20, and was third in SCIAC in strikeouts with 81. Cade, Salisbury, and Gazzaniga combined to go 4-0 on the season in 25 appearances.
The Poets face a Redlands team who they are 1-3 against this season with the lone win coming back on March 25 when they won 2-0 behind a strong pitching performance from Delano. The win also gave Redlands their first loss on the season during a stretch when they were ranked No. 9 in the country.
Tournament information, directions, etc. can be found on the Redlands athletics website: