To say the Venice High softball team is full of young talent would be quite the understatement. The Gondolier girls will have five freshmen playing throughout the year, and will be heavily relying on two sophomores at catcher and pitcher.
“Last year was rough for us," Coach Jessica Ruiz said. "We lost a couple really close games in extra innings that I thought we could have won. We lost eight seniors and have a lot of youth this year."
The girls went 2-16 last year, going 1-10 in the Western League. They also lost Stefanie Perez, an All-City center fielder who was the leader of the offense. This year, Ruiz is depending on Milana Casillas at pitcher and Chae Persinger at catcher.
Ruiz has her eyes on the matchups with Westchester and LA Hamilton this year.
“We played really tight with Hamilton last year," she said. "I definitely feel like we could have beaten them last year. As far as Westchester, they are really solid and will be tough to beat, but I’m confident we have a good shot at first or second.”
Everywhere you look there is young talent for the Gondoliers, who will field just six juniors and seniors and will be a force to be reckoned with further down the road.
“We have a lot of young players who are very versatile," Ruiz said. "If they can work together and develop well with each other, then we ill be a great team in two or three years. They have a lot of time to learn together which is nice.”
The Gondoliers will be kicking the season off this weekend when they host a pair of games in the Lincoln Classic. Venice takes on Hollywood at 8:30 a.m. and LA Fremont at 10:15 a.m. It will be the first time Ruiz sees all her players on the field.
“It will be nice to see where everyone fits in," she said. "I can put some players at any number of positions. So I’m very excited to see that.”
As far as goals for this year, Ruiz understands that this is a team that is building for the future.
“I would love to make playoffs this year, but its going to be tough," Ruiz said. "We don’t have much experience on the field, so we could have some struggles this year. But once my players get their flow going, we will be tough to beat, I think.”