By James Escarcega~SGV Tribune
Many softball experts didn’t expect Los Altos High School to have any significant success this season as it moved from CIF Southern Section Division 3 to Division 1. With the presence of Southern California powers Gahr, Los Alamitos, Norco and Orange Lutheran, the Conquerors were not on anyone’s radar.
That is no longer the case.
The Conquerors are 16-2 overall and put everyone in Southern California on notice with their 7-4 win over Trinity League stalwart Mater Dei to win the Alan Dugard Tournament on Saturday in Irvine.
“The girls have the mentality that they have something to prove every time they take the field,” Los Altos coach Lydell McCullough said. “We feel that we can play with anyone in Southern California. The girls are not intimidated by anyone that we play against.”
The Conquerors showed some mental toughness in their win over the Monarchs after giving up four runs in the first inning before recording the first out of the game.
Los Altos rallied and took the lead by scoring three runs in the fourth inning and four runs in the fifth.
Senior Savannah Diederich, a University of Mississippi signee, allowed only one hit and struck out three in the final six innings to improve her record to 14-2 with a 2.24 ERA. She was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“(Mater Dei) only had one solid hit in (the first inning), but they put a lot of pressure on us,” McCullough said. “The one thing that I liked about Savannah was after the first inning, she came into the dugout and was positive to all the girls. It made a huge difference.”
The impact that seniors Bailey Chavez and Brianna Santos and junior Jocelyn Vidal have made at the plate has made a huge difference, according to McCullough. Vidal leads the team with a .459 average while Santos has driven in a team-high 23 runs. Chavez is on a nine-game hitting streak and has a .404 batting average.
All three were named to the all-tournament team.
“Jocelyn is the most underrated player in all of Southern California right now,” McCullough said. “She is getting some attention by college coaches … all of her hits are line drives that are hit hard.”
With the Conquerors ranked fifth in Division 1, the challenge for McCullough is to keep the team motivated through the Hacienda League schedule. The Conquerors will be heavily favored every time they take the field.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of a concern,” McCullough said about his team being able to maintain its high-level of play through the league campaign. “We have respect for every team in our league and we know that if we lose one game, it could prove disastrous for us when it comes to the playoffs. I think the girls know that and are ready for the challenge.”