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Oak Ridge faces tough challenge in Division I

By: Matt Long
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Having won four Sac-Joaquin Section Division II titles in a row, Oak Ridge High’s varsity softball team will try to win one at the Division I level this year. The Lady Trojans will have to do without some key players from last year’s team that created a lot of offense in Jourdan Hitchings, Gabby Goyette, Molly Ryan, Jodie Richards and Callie Wissman. If Oak Ridge is to challenge for a section title this season, those players will need to be replaced. The good news for the Lady Trojans is that they return senior pitcher Kasey Stanchek, who has pitched the team to three straight section titles and will be trying to win a fourth. “Kasey is doing well and looking great,” Oak Ridge coach Mike McCauley said. “She threw a couple of great games over the weekend.” Stanchek will do a bulk of the pitching for the Lady Trojans and is backed up by senior Julia Okasaki, who saw some time on the bump last year. Fellow seniors Jenessa Jeppesen, Megan Watson and Christine Berg also return. Jeppesen provides power in the lineup and will play first base. Watson had a good first week of the season and will play left field, while Berg is also an outfielder. Renee Bardini in center field and Stephanie Brenneman in right join Watson in the outfield. Jade Matsumoto handles third base, while Jackie Schmaeling is at shortstop and Lauren Bertoy handles second. Haley Anderson, who just finished basketball season, will be out this week and will eventually play shortstop with Schmaeling likely heading back behind the plate. Bertoy will kick-start the offense at the leadoff position followed by Brenneman and Schmaeling. Watson and Jeppesen, along with Anderson when she returns this week, will be in charge to drive them in. The Lady Trojans, along with rival Ponderosa, join the Delta River League this season to face Sheldon, Pleasant Grove, Folsom and St. Francis. Sheldon has played in three of the last four section title games, winning twice, while Pleasant Grove won the title in 2009. “We’ve played these teams before, but now we’re excited to compete with them in the Delta River League,” McCauley said. “Every year we set the goal to win the league title and see what happens in the playoffs.”