By Laurel Busby
Palisades High School’s girls softball team began its Western League season Tuesday with a game against perennial rival Venice.
The pre-season, which started Feb. 23, included several losses as the team worked to get its footing with little practice time. Because the softball team doesn’t have a designated practice space, the school rented a field at the Palisades Recreation Center for 75 minutes each school day during a rainy February.
Unfortunately, with carting gear from the school, driving the team over, setting the gear up and rain canceling some practices, the girls didn’t end up with much time to prepare for the season.
“We’re at a serious disadvantage,” coach Tori Dario said. “Venice has their own field. They have a designated space they can use no matter what sport is in season . . . It’s hard, and we’re set up to play some really good teams. I don’t think the girls feel very confident because they haven’t been able to get in as much preparation as they would like.”
In March, the football field became available for two hours each school day, and the Dolphins were able to complete two practices before playing in the Lincoln Classic tournament. They lost their first game, 5-0, to San Fernando and the second, 2-1, to Glendale before losing to Chatsworth, 5-0, and to Sylmar, 2-1.
PaliHi, which is in City Section Division 2, struggled in its first two games of the season—a 12-2 loss to Lincoln on Feb. 23 and a 9-0 loss to Culver City on Feb. 28. However, Dario, a special education teacher who is in her third year as head coach, is working to help the team improve, particularly in reducing errors.
“That’s been our Achilles heel—not being able to put up a clean defensive sheet,” said Dario, a Long Beach State graduate who grew up playing softball. With regular and longer practices plus the frequent game experiences, she expects the team to improve in both their fielding and hitting. “We’ll get there.”
She added, “The losses, they hurt, but why did you lose? That’s what you have to focus on, so the next time you don’t lose.” In addition to softball skills, Dario added that she stresses life skills. “I’m more worried that what I’m doing as a coach helps turn out good humans . . . We focus on being good people, and softball is what brings us together.”
The players include a mix of mostly juniors and seniors, Dario noted. The pitchers include seniors Paulette Ely (co-captain) and Gretel Payne plus juniors Jasmine Pelayo Najar and Talia Hunter, while senior Caroline Bamberger and junior Sasha Vanley are both catchers and infielders.
In addition, the team features senior co-captains Jaylene Navarro and Jenny Talbot, sophomore Alyssa Wallin and juniors Cienna Henry Milton, Giselle Murillo, Mya Burbank, Calia Hunter, Samahni Squalls, and Milly Acevedo.
Both Navarro and Calia Hunter got off to strong starts with their hitting. Each girl chalked up a double amongst their first hits, while earning .429 and .333 batting averages respectively.