A solid mix of veterans and newcomers has the Hancock College softball team off to a 6-1 start.
The Bulldogs were hitting .409 as a team before a 9-2 home loss to Riverside City College Saturday, the Bulldogs' first loss this year.
Before the RCC game, Hancock sophomore Bailey Killough was hitting .444. She was 3-0 as a pitcher before she took her first loss of the year Saturday.
Freshman first baseman Zaiden Bakke was leading the team at .667 before Saturday. Another freshman, Mallory Townsend, was at .500, sophomore Nikole Cody was batting .467 and freshman Alyssa Gonzalez was at .429.
Meanwhile, sophomore Hannah Diaz, who splits time with Killough in the Bulldogs' pitching rotation, is 3-0. Her ERA going into the RCC game was 0.70, though she gave up four runs in relief Saturday.
Killough plays third base when she's not pitching. Diaz had been strictly a pitcher before she started in right field Satudray.
The defending Western State Conference Gold Division champions lost a lot to graduation in 2017. In fact, "We had seven players who graduated," said Killough.
"Because of that, I was a little worried. But I thought going in we had a chance to have a successful season. And the new players are doing really well."
Thus far, Hancock's seven freshmen, along with reliable veterans such as Killough, Diaz, second baseman-right fielder Cody, left fielder Sierra Martinez, infielder Nakaila Fuggs and first baseman Andrea Ortega, have made for a successful blend.
Ninth-year Hancock coach Scia Maumausolo said her team held its own during a rugged fall ball schedule, and that bolstered her optimism about the upcoming season.
"We played four (NCAA) Division I teams and we lost to Cal Poly 2-1," said Maumausolo.
"We were beaten up a little bit playing the Division I teams, but we beat all the junior college teams we played," during Hancock's fall ball schedule.
"It was fun watching the team play. They actually surprised me a bit at times with how well they did against some of the competition. Afterward, I'd think, 'Wow.'"
Maumausolo said, "The players we have coming back have been doing well and some of the new players, like Mallory and Crystal (Gonzalez, who is hitting .375), have really stepped in and played well."
Along with the Bulldogs' solid hitting, "We have two (dependable) pitchers, and that's really helped," said Maumausolo.
Townsend, a Cabrillo graduate, said she played "every practice," during fall ball.
"(Going against) junior college pitching has been just like going against high school pitching," Townsend said. "Going against our pitchers in practice all the time has helped."
Townsend said she never considered going to a school other than Hancock after she graduated from high school. In fact, "I wasn't going to go to a college at all. I was going to go straight into the Air Force."
Her plans changed because "I didn't want to give up softball," Townsend said. She said she still plans on going into the Air Force. Eventually.
Killough said she's mixing up her pitches a bit more this year than she did last year.
"It depends on the situation as to which pitch I'll use," said Killough. "I use a fastball, curveball. I throw a drop."
Diaz said she also mixes up her pitches. "The screwball," has been her best clutch pitch so far in the young season, she said.
Hancock's WSC Gold opener is Feb. 27 at Santa Barbara City College.