Could the best softball team in Elk Grove not be in Division I? Could it perhaps be the Division IV Cosumnes Oaks Wolfpack?
If one were to answer those questions on the basis of the Wolfpack’s season opener, a 5-2 loss at Pleasant Grove, the answer may be “no.” However, by the end of the year, especially by the end of the D-IV playoffs in Stockton, the answer could be a “yes.”
Lynda Bettencourt, one of the most energetic local coaches, has plenty of talent this season to go very deep, if not win, a Section championship.
“I think by the end of the season that we will be a top competitor in the city,” Bettencourt said. “(Her club) is a team of heart, they are coach-able, passion and they are going to make the adjustments.”
And, as far as why the Wolfpack looked a bit overwhelmed last Thursday in the loss to Pleasant Grove?
“We had a little jitters today in the first day,” Bettencourt admitted.
The competition, admittedly, in the Sierra Valley League won’t be near as tough as the teams Cosumnes Oaks will play in the pre-season. In the next three weeks, the Wolfpack have scheduled games against Rodriguez, Lodi, St. Francis, Vintage and Franklin.
“That’s part of my strategy,” Bettencourt said. “I believe that you learn from playing good teams. If the strength of your schedule isn’t at the level you play at you’ll get away with things that come playoffs you won’t be able to get away with. I want to play the Division I teams from around here because they make us better.”
She’s lost seven players to graduation and is trying to replace the entire infield with young talent.
Ask her, she’ll say those new girls are quite talented.
“Our team is young, mostly sophomores and juniors,” Bettencourt said. “I think the strength of this team is that we all work well together.”
Sophomore Samantha Kile agrees with her coach.
“I think we play for each other, not as individuals, but play as a team,” she said.
Bettencourt has done several things away from the softball diamond to get this team molded together, such as movie nights, to promote team camaraderie.
“These guys can really eat,” she joked.
This kind of bonding may be the thing the Wolfpack will need this season, especially to overcome the sting of losing to Ceres, 9-8, early in the playoffs last year.
“That was a little disappointing last year,” third baseman Kali Roberts said.
She and her younger sister, Malia, will be counted on this year to once again lead the offensive attack. Kalia batted .293 in her junior season. Malia, a freshman last year, was very impressive in her first varsity season. She batted .463 with five doubles, a triple and two home runs.
“From a softball perspective, there is not a weak link in our batting lineup,” Bettencourt added. “We hit one through nine.”
Julia Morales showed off a bit of her hitting ability last Thursday by going three-for-three against Pleasant Grove including a two-run homer to account for Cosumnes Oaks’ only runs.
Kile, in her freshman season, led the Wolfpack with four home runs and batted .333. She and Morales will be the top pitchers this season.
A year ago, Kile had a 6-5 record, but an impressive 1.99 ERA. Morales, a lefty, was 7-0 with a 1.35 ERA.