Del Oro derailing SFL’s order

Surprising Eagles close to clinching their first league title since 2002
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Savannah Pingree doesn’t mind the pressure. In fact, Del Oro High’s junior ace has embraced it. Pingree has pitched the Golden Eagles to the top of the Sierra Foothill League softball standings entering today’s showdown with Roseville. “I’ve never been the primary pitcher on a competitive team like we are now so it is a lot of pressure, but it’s something that I love,” Pingree said. “I didn’t realize that I loved it, but I love being in control. I have a great defense behind me. You couldn’t ask for a better defense, a better team.” A blend of seasoned talent and fresh faces has gelled to a 17-6 overall record. Del Oro improved to 7-2 in the SFL with its win at Nevada Union Wednesday and inched closer to its first league title since 2002. “We have 13 girls on this team and every one of them in one way or another has contributed to our success,” said Jeff Pingree, an assistant coach and Savannah’s father. “It’s not just a line. Everybody’s helped to win a game.” The Eagles have won five straight after splitting their first four in SFL play, outscoring opponents 28-2 during the streak. “We haven’t won the league in forever and to know this year we have a chance, it gives you one of those feelings,” said freshman infielder Whitney Smith, who leads the team in virtually every offensive category. “We actually have a great chance to do it. I don’t think teams in the past have worked as hard as we have this year.” Pingree played right field her freshman season and second base last year before seizing the pitcher’s circle fulltime this spring. She’s 15-4 with a 0.85 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 115 innings. Pingree has thrown seven shutouts and opponents are hitting just .116 against her. “She really has taken it and run with it,” Jeff Pingree said. “She’s been preparing for this since she was seven years old. She’s done it with good control and a lot of hard work. She’s very deceptive and she’s got a lot of different pitches that she works hard on. What really has helped her confidence is having a real solid defense behind her.” The Eagles committed eight errors in their season opener, but special focus on defense during practice quickly turned things around. “We take infield about 45 minutes every day,” Smith said. “We do everyday drills. We get in partners and we throw short hops and backhands and work really hard on our fundamentals. We put that together when we take grounders and then in games, we field it and think before we throw it.” The Eagles are as dangerous at the plate as they’ve been all season, pounding out 16 more hits in Wednesday’s win. Smith is batting .426 (26-for-61) with a .493 on-base percentage. Sophomore outfielder Ciera Clark (.360, 18-for-50) and freshman leadoff hitter Hannah George (.311, 19-for-61) set the table for Smith and sophomore catcher Aspen Echelmeier, who lead the team with 17 RBIs each. Today the Eagles, who hold a one-game advantage on Roseville and Woodcreek with three remaining, are looking to avenge a 3-2 loss to the Tigers on March 30. “They can lose a game and five minutes later they’ve moved on,” Jeff Pingree said. “They’re hungry. They want revenge and they’re working hard to get there. They see a chance now for us to really do good things and they want to follow through.” Seniors like Kelsey Mooney, a captain at first base, aren’t taking it for granted. “We haven’t been in this position for a long time,” Mooney said. “We have a great shot right now with this team. I remember being a freshman looking up to the varsity girls, and now it’s our shot to do it.”