All throughout this campus that’s sprinkled in blue and white, there’s a buzz about the direction in which the Lompoc High softball team is heading.
And it’s a direction the faculty, students and softball players have seen before — last year to be exact.
There’s the hot streak to close out the regular season, just like the 2016 CIF Southern Section Division 5 title team. There’s also the playoff appearance this season in the Division 3 field and lastly, there are flocks of students and faculty members who blurt out how the Braves will repeat last year’s magic.
Except the two elder Braves Cheyenne Marmolejo and Lauren Wade don’t want to hear it — or allow their team and campus to get ahead of itself.
Said Marmolejo: “I try not to (get ahead), because it’s a different team. We’ve created our own team with the run we’ve had at the end.”
Added Wade: “I’ve had some people come up to me saying we’re going to do really good. I even had people tell me that we’re going to own them…and I’m like ‘I don’t know about that guys. Let’s not get our hopes up yet. I know you’re confident about us but we’re going to do our best and they’re going to do their best.’”
And who is “they” Wade is referring to? That would be the other red-hot softball team located 50 minutes north of LHS: The Arroyo Grande Eagles, winners of five of their last six games to close out their regular season. They’re also the same Eagles program that has produced eight winning campaigns since the 2004-05 season.
The 3:15 p.m. Thursday contest at AGHS kicks off the Division 3 postseason, with the victorious team securing a second round contest against Riverside Ramona or Palmdale Knight.
Wade, who has been the leading pitcher during the Braves’ seven-game winning march, says she’s confident yet cautious about her team’s approach for this playoff opener.
“I’m really confident about tomorrow. I’ve got a good feeling it’s going to be a good game. But I’m not getting my hopes yet just yet, because it can go both ways. One of us has to win and one of us has to lose,” Wade said.
The senior could find herself in a pitcher’s duel with the Eagles’ top mound ace Julie Lewis, who has fanned 41 batters and surrendered just 20 hits in 25 regular season games this season.
“Julie is a good pitcher. She’s really tough,” Wade said. “We played against her last year. I also played against some of the other girls. They’ve got really good bunters and they’re pretty fast on the bases.”
Marmolejo also anticipates a fast and hard-nosed challenge.
“They’re real aggressive on the bases. They try to get out there and score,” Marmolejo said.
Arroyo Grande reached double digits in runs nine times during the regular season, including a season-high 18 runs in the 18-4 rout of St. Joseph on March 28. Along with the stout challenge the Braves are expected to encounter, the senior leaders are also aiming to keep the younger Braves on the same page.
“We go in some huddles saying ‘We’ve got to win and do this. We’ve got to stay focused in practice. We have to play like we do in a game. We just have to work on the little things we haven’t done before,’” Wade said.
Marmolejo, who recently got the Braves girls basketball team to make a deep playoff run, said she’s expecting the Brave players who have never witnessed the varsity playoffs to pick up the speed of the postseason right away.
“The girls who are returners know what it takes to win a championship. We’re expecting the younger girls to pick up on the energy, so they would know what that is like,” Marmolejo said.
And with the support Braves softball has had for the second straight spring, what would it mean for this program, particularly the two seniors, to go back-to-back? Especially player in a higher division?
“If we defend our title…that would be amazing,” Wade said. “I’m pretty sad that I’m going to be leaving this team after this year, but knowing that I can end my career on a good streak? That would be amazing.”
Added Marmolejo: “It would be amazing because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. It’s going to be a sad day if it ends, but we’ve got to get through it.”