Cal-Hi Sports has released its initial 2010 state softball rankings and, just like last year, an Elk Grove Unified School District program opens at the top.
Except that this year it's coach JT Tiumalu's Pleasant Grove Eagles on top after downing two-time defending champion Sheldon, which opened last year No. 1 in the country, for last year's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship.
The Eagles return their UCLA-bound battery of pitcher junior pitcher Ally Carda (.430 batting average, nine home runs, 0.73 ERA last season), The Bee's 2009 Player of the Year, and senior catcher Alyssa Tiumalu (.438 average, 29 RBIs in 2009) in addition to senior outfielder Kirsten Willmon (.341 average in 2009) and senior third baseman Jazmine Lee (.500 average in an injury-shortened 2009 season).
Pleasant Grove will, however, be without 2009 Bee first-team outfielder Emily Caruthers who, with a softball scholarship waiting for her at Columbia, has decided to forego her senior season and focus on academics.
Joining Pleasant Grove in Cal-Hi's Top 20 is defending section D-II champion Oak Ridge which ranked No. 6 also returns a masterful junior pitcher in Kasey Stanchek. Stanchek, who had a 0.43 ERA and struck out 276 batters last year, saved her best for last in the section playoffs in 2009 when she was not scored upon, allowing just four hits while striking out 38 batters over four games.
Returning along with Stanchek is sophomore outfielder Jenessa Jeppesen, who hit .449 with four home runs last year, and senior infielder Molly Ryan (.358 average, 17 RBIs in 2009).
Sheldon coach Mary Jo Trusdale, whose Huskies are ranked No. 14 by Cal-Hi, has had to deal with losing stars before. With her starting for the past four years in Jolene Henderson and Lindsey Ziegenhirt now making an immediate impact at Cal (Henderson is 3-1 with a team-leading 1.42 ERA while Ziegenhirt has made all 10 starts at catcher and has a team-high 15 RBIs) Truesdale once again turns to a seemingly endless stream of youngsters to fill in the gaps.
Third baseman Danielle Henderson, younger sister of Jolene, is the Huskies' returning leader at the plate as she hit .396 with two home runs this season.