WNC softball looking to improve in Year 2 | NevadaAppeal.com

WNC softball looking to improve in Year 2

Justin Lawson
jlawson@nevadaappeal.com

Losing seasons are never fun for anyone. But when the Western Nevada College softball sunk into a 10-38 inaugural season last year, for some, losing became easy.

“Last year, we were used to losing and didn’t even care,” said infielder Alissa Rampa.

So why would any of those players want to come back for a second year?

“I want to win more games and we should win more games and I think that we can,” said infielder/outfield Alex Arciniega, one of five players from last year’s team to return. “We just need to do it. We’re a better, way better, team than we were last year.”

While their early-season record has yet to show it, the Wildcats (4-14) are excited with about what this year has to offer. Aside from the returners’ desire to improve on last season, the team entered their second season with considerably more talent. But perhaps no one is more excited than Leah Wentworth, who after being an assistant coach last year took over the reins from Scott Rasner and became the third coach of the fledgling program.

“It’s been a fun, interesting new challenge,” said Wentworth, who graduated from Carson High School in 1998 and went on to star at Long Island University-Brooklyn. “I’ve just learned a lot. You think you know the game from playing it, but yeah, from a coaching standpoint that’s really a new experience and a new way to see the game.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I really missed it. I’ve been away from softball for awhile. I’m glad to get back and give them my experience and knowledge.”

Wentworth previously coached at Wooster High School as a junior varsity coach in 2004 and was working at WNC as a strength and conditioning instructor prior to joining the softball team last year.

She is looking to provide the Wildcats with some stability after a tumultuous first season. Dick Allen was named the first head coach lat two summers ago, which made recruiting hard considering most softball players had already committed to other programs. Allen left for personal reasons at the beginning of 2009 before even coaching a game. Rasner took over the program on an interim basis, while grooming Wentworth to eventually take control.

“Bottom line is we’re kind of thrown to the wolves right now with this conference,” Wentworth said of the Scenic West Athletic Conference, which boasts two of the top 20 teams in the nation – Salt Lake Community College (13th) and College of Southern Idaho (20th).

“These aren’t just some of the best teams in our conference, these are some of the best teams in the nation,” Wentworth said. “Last year Salt Lake finished fifth in the nation … so were competing against the best of the best for our division. So, it’s hard for the morale sometimes for the girls, but for the long run it’s only going to make us better.”

Season 2 for the Wildcats has at least brought together a recruiting class that wasn’t built off left over talent and not enough pitching. After a myriad of injuries last season, the Wildcats were forced to use only one true pitcher in its rotation and move Arciniega to the circle, a position she hadn’t played since eighth grade.

WNC brought in 10 new players this season, four of which are listed as pitchers. But the injury bug has already hit the team with Carson grad Cassi Vondrak out for the year with a hip injury.

Ashley Hall has taken the lead from the circle. In six starts and one relief appearance she has an 8.27 earned run average.

Five players hold a batting average of .300 or better on the season with Alicia Merrell and Jennifer Watkins leading the way with .333 averages.

“The girls that are in here from last year, it’s like night and day,” Wentworth said.

Among other changes from last season, the Wildcats have moved into the Edmonds Sports Complex where they play on a field more suited for fast-pitch softball. They were scheduled to play their home opener on Feb. 26 against Snow College, but had to postpone the series until May. They will play their first game at the park on March 12 as part of a four-game series against Southern Idaho.

The Wildcats previously played at Centennial Park on a slow-pitch field with a temporary fence in the outfield.

“I like (Edmonds) much better,” Rampa said. “It feels more like an actual softball field.”

The Wildcats play on the road Friday and Saturday against the College of Southern Nevada.