There’s nothing like an emphatic display of power to fire up softball emotions.
The Sheldon Huskies are led by Sarah Fukushima, a slugger who bats in the No. 3 spot but delivers like a clean-up hitter. The senior outfielder has five home runs, six doubles and 16 RBIs to go with her gaudy .593 batting average. She leads the Sac-Joaquin Section with a 1.444 slugging percentage.
And she’s put up those numbers despite one of the area’s most daunting schedules for the defending Division I champions.
“What’s nice about Sarah,” Sheldon softball coach Mary Jo Truesdale said, “is she’s so unselfish. She can put down a bunt with the best of them, and she would take that bunt sign without a flinch, do her job and walk back to the dugout knowing she did her job.”
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But that power swing?
“Oh, absolutely, that’s so fun to watch,” Truesdale said. “When Sarah hits one out, it goes. And she hustles around the bases. Doesn’t make a big deal out of it, doesn’t show off. But she’s smiling, and I’m smiling.”
Other area softball players are putting up big numbers, too.
Placer’s Kaitlyn Rubio has five home runs and is hitting .419, and Casa Roble’s Bailynn Meek has four homers, 15 RBIs and is hitting .438. Meek also has struck out 18 batters in 27 1/3 innings as a pitcher.
Amanda Metzger of Oakmont, Reyna Cota of River City, Olivia Moore of Del Oro, Gabriella Jimenez of McClatchy, Madison Anderson of Ponderosa, Taylor Quijada of El Dorado and Naomi Kubo of West Campus each have three homers to lead their teams.
Pitching prowess – In softball, a dominating pitcher is key.
The top pitchers in the area include Rocklin’s Carli Cutler (9-1), Woodcreek’s Jacy Boles (9-1, 0.70 ERA), Marysville’s Cassidy Clavelle (10-2, two no-hitters), Rio Linda’s Brianna Leavell (7-0, two no-hitters), Del Campo’s Brooke Larsen (6-1), Bear River’s Nerissa Eason (0.32 ERA) and Whitney’s Maddie Mitchell (0.80 ERA).
Unlike baseball, softball pitchers have a natural motion, so their arms usually don’t wear out. They seemingly can throw by the hour, remaining sharp as they reach the late innings.
Breanna Swint of Lindhurst has struck out 131 batters in 96 2/3 innings over 15 games. Karissa Mejia of Foothill has 127 strikeouts in 70 innings, and Amaryssa Medina of River City has struck out 103 in 71 innings.
Scheduling dividends – Sheldon’s Truesdale has a simple motto, shared by many area coaches, when it comes to scheduling during the nonleague season: Test yourself.
“Tough scheduling keeps you sharp,” said Truesdale, whose team has wins over ranked teams in Cosumnes Oaks, Del Oro and Franklin and losses against Del Campo, The Bee’s No. 1 team, in extra innings and Amador Valley (Pleasanton), the state’s top-ranked team. Sheldon also is playing in the Livermore Stampede on Thursday through Saturday.
“Tough scheduling gets you ready for the playoffs because you’ve got to play tough teams if you’re going to be a tough team,” Truesdale said.
Power leagues – The section’s toughest and deepest leagues include the Delta (Sheldon 8-2; Pleasant Grove 2-2; Elk Grove 3-6 despite a brutal schedule), Capital Valley (Del Campo 6-1; Cosumnes Oaks 5-4; Roseville 7-5-1) and Sierra Foothill (Rocklin 11-1; Del Oro 6-4-1).