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Arab softball team ready for first pitch

February 01, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

IMPERIAL — When it comes to sports, many coaches place a huge emphasis on winning, but for Imperial Valley College women's softball coach Jill Lerno winning isn't necessarily everything.

For Lerno and her squad this year isn't about how many wins they rack up, but rather about the team playing as one unit.

"That's one of our expectations this year. I expect this team to play the entire year as a team and not as individuals," said Lerno, whose 2000 squad finished with a dismal 7-22 overall record and a 3-15 mark in the Pacific Coast Conference.

Her theory of the team being successful when playing as one seemed to be right on the money last year. She said in virtually every loss the Arabs failed to work together.


But IVC seemingly had the odds stacked against it as it fielded a freshman-laced squad. Because the team had no experience it wasn't mentally and physically ready for the grind of a full season.

Lerno said her squad was capable of playing hard through three innings, but after that the Arabs would fold.

This year, the Arabs return seven players with a year of junior college experience under their belts who will be teamed with five freshman expected to contribute immediately.

Leading the pack of returnees is IVC's sole pitcher last year, Michelle Briseño. During the 2000 campaign Briseño had to carry the load of pitching duties for the Arabs. But she's looking to put that in the past.

"Last year was last year. I'm putting that behind me," said the 19-year-old Briseño, from Calexico.

This year she'll have more help as her cousin Jennifer Briseño will help ease the pitching load.

"That really makes it a little easier for me," she said. "But I still know that I have to pitch a lot better than I did last year."

If the Briseño cousins can hold their own on the mound, Lerno feels the defense is capable of making some plays. In fact, she feels IVC's defense is its strength.

"Defensively I really don't think we have a weak spot out there," Lerno said. "These girls know each other and have played together for awhile."

Of the 12 players on the team eight played at Calexico High, including the Briseño cousins. Along with the Briseños, sophomores Karen Rivera, Mariel Martinez, Kristine Morales and Lilian Morales all donned Calexico gear. Also from Calexico are freshmen Jenny Burgos and Liliana Corona.

Rounding out the Arabs are returners Nicole Morlet of Murieta and Erika Baxter of Southwest High, freshmen Adela Green of Central Union and Southwest's Olga Noris.

Of the freshmen, Lerno pointed to Noris as an immediate impact player. She'll need to be an impact player because as the team's catcher she'll be asked to call games and be a top field general for the defense.

"I've known these girls and have been playing with them for a long time," said the 18-year-old Noris. "If we just go out and play and play together I expect us to do pretty good this year."

Added Lerno: "What we're shooting for this year is to not be at the bottom of the PCC. We feel that we have the team to compete with the others. We know that we're going to have to boost it up and if we can, we'll do better this year."

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