ROCKVILLE — If the adage of offense winning games and defense winning championships applies to softball, the squad from Solano Community College is counting on doing both in 2014.
The Falcons have won eight straight Bay Valley Conference crowns – “We’re working on No. 9,” said coach Terri Pearson-Bloom, who’s in her 14th season – and are looking for bigger things this spring.
“Our goal this year is to host regionals and to get out of regionals and get to state,” Pearson-Bloom said. “We want to get there first and then worry about winning it.”
To do that Solano needs to do more than just win the BVC. Even after last year’s conference title the Falcons played on the road in the regionals, being swept in two games by West Valley of Saratoga.
“You have to do well in non-conference games,” Pearson-Bloom said. “We schedule an incredible non-conference schedule.”
Starting with the season opener against San Mateo, which is ranked fourth in the state and second in Northern California by the CCCFCA, at home on Tuesday.
Other games are scheduled with Sequoias (14th in state, eighth in Northern California), Fresno (10th, fifth), Sierra (third, second) and San Joaquin Delta (11th, sixth).
With Solano the only team in the BVC receiving votes, which put it essentially tied for 11th with Ohlone, success in non-conference games is essential.
“We don’t have time to waste,” Pearson-Bloom said. “We’ve got to come out of the gate strong. That’s where the power points (are).”
Power and speed on offense, backed by a solid defense and pitching, figure to give the Falcons a fighting chance.
“We have a good team this year, a really good team – as long as we stay healthy,” Pearson-Bloom said.
Solano is best up the middle where it returns all-BVC first team shortstop Britney Taglieri (Vacaville) and all-BVC second team second baseman Stefanie Chainurux (Vanden).
Taglieri tied for 18th in the state with a .478 average and was fourth with 40 stolen bases and tied for sixth with seven triples, striking out just twice in more than 150 plate appearances.
“She just had an incredible season last year,” Pearson-Bloom said.
Chainurux hit a robust .365 and led the team with 26 RBIs.
Behind them in center field is Emily Goode (Fairfield), a transfer from Sacramento City College who got into just four games with the Panthers in 2013, batting .429 (3 for 7).
Goode provides speed in center field and a solid bat in the heart of the lineup.
“Emily is a great talent,” Pearson-Bloom said. “She had a breakthrough fall.”
Freshmen Cecilia Salas (Pinole Valley High) and Victoria Faleafine (Clayton Valley) will do the catching.
“That triangle of leadership (up the middle) is outstanding and behind the plate we are so good,” Pearson-Bloom said.
At pitcher, the Falcons will rotate sophomore Amber Takeda (Wood) and freshman Shannon Mestas of Clayton Valley with freshman Amanda Diego (Buckingham Charter) in reserve.
Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, Takeda got into six games last season, including one start, going 1-0 with a 0.47 earned run average. She struck out six while allowing 12 hits and five walks in 15 innings.
Mestas helped pitch Clayton Valley to the North Coast Section Division II title game.
“On the mound we have two extremely strong pitchers and Amanda is a developing pitcher,” Pearson-Bloom said. “Hopefully we can stay healthy. It’s our biggest concern that both can stay healthy through a 40-game season.”
Both Takeda and Mestas are being counted on to contribute in other ways.
Of Takeda, who had six hits, including two home runs, in 12 at-bats last season, Pearson-Bloom said, “Amber Takeda has tremendous home run power, she can hit it when gets a hold of it.”
As for Mestas, “She is also a phenomenal player, a great bat, a five-tool player, a D-1 talent,” Pearson-Bloom said.
The front runner at first base is freshman Jade Bactad (Vanden), who batted .321 with seven doubles and four home runs for the Vikings in 2013, according to maxpreps.com.
“She was the hottest hitter in the fall,” Pearson-Bloom said. “She can smoke the ball over the fence. She is a great talent, a great talent.”
A pair of freshmen will vie for third base job, Aleyna Benipayo (Concord) and Sierra Siegel (American Canyon).
Surrounding Goode in the outfield are redshirt freshman Haley Wink (Wood) in left and freshman Danielle Emge (Napa) in right with freshman Angelay Kazen (Wood) a capable back up.
“It’s probably the strongest outfield I’ve coached at Solano,” Pearson-Bloom said. “Usually you get one or two players in the starting line that are outstanding. This year we are four deep in ability to play center field. They have great arms and good range.”
The Falcons batted .348 in 2013 – 63 points higher than their opponents – and belted 17 home runs. Pearson-Bloom expects another solid season at the plate in 2014.
“Right now we can hit, this team can hit,” the coach said. “We have five lefties in the lineup so we are very balanced with power and speed. There’s a lot of speed on this year’s team. Some of the lefties hitting for us are so versatile – they’re fast slappers who can turn on it. . . . I expect us to have a record season as far as home runs go.
“It’s hard to say who our starting nine hitters are going to be because there’s a lot of competition to get into the lineup. That’s a nice problem to have. I can’t say we have that every single year.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.