Lady Trojans complete challenging season

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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It wasn’t quite the year that the Oak Ridge softball team had envisioned at the beginning of the season. After claiming four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championships, the Lady Trojans bumped up to the D-I level, out of the Sierra Valley Conference and into the Delta River League with area powerhouses like Sheldon, Pleasant Grove and St. Francis. With a 5-5 record — good for fourth in the DRL (14-10-1 overall), Oak Ridge failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003. “We had some success in the Division II sections that have been every bit as competitive as D-I. I think it’s all cyclical. I’ve seen some D-I leagues that aren’t as strong as some D-II leagues,” said Oak Ridge coach Marc Bentovoja. “We set the bar so high for ourselves and we didn’t make it on that account but we were a better team at the end of the year than we were in the beginning of the year. Quite honestly, that wasn’t enough in this league.” The Lady Trojans had high expectations of returning to the postseason with two of its five seniors, pitcher Kasey Stanchek and corner infielder Jenessa Jeppesen, signing letters of intent to play for D-I schools next year. Stanchek signed with Washington and Jeppesen with UC Santa Barbara. “We’ve been very fortunate with talented kids in the past. I think this is the nicest collective bunch of girls that we’ve had in a long time,” Bentovoja added. “We had plenty of senior leadership and I think some of our best players were sophomores.” Among those sophomores, second baseman Lauren Bertoy led the team in hitting, runs, hits and doubles (.346-20-27-6). Catcher Jackie Schmaeling matured while putting down the signals a majority of the season for Stanchek, who won 11 games with a 1.56 ERA and was tops in the DRL in punch-outs (181). Jeppesen contributed a heavy bat to the lineup, leading the Lady Trojans with five homers, 17 RBIs and five triples. “I think that winning the last three (SJS) championships, you kind of get the mentality like ‘Oh, we’re just going to win’ and I think because of that, we slacked off a little. But it was a hard league and we always fought, so it was a good year,” Jeppesen said. Bentovoja, the long-time Oak Ridge coach, remains optimistic for another league run in 2012. “I think this team should be able to compete next year. How good, I don’t know but I think that they should be able to step on the field regardless of who they’re playing and know that they can compete.”