Coming off of three 20-win seasons, the Queen Creek softball team will look to its senior leadership and young talent as it starts the 2014 season.
The Bulldogs have ten underclassmen on the roster and are very young, but will also have four strong seniors in the lineup. Two of their seniors, Madi Merrell and Lexis Valenzuela, will return after leading the team offensively last season. Merrell hit .577 with a team-high 42 RBI and eight home runs, while Valenzuela added 31 RBI on a .543 average. Sophomore Ryann Holmes will also add some pop and power to the lineup as she tries to improve upon her impressive freshman season last year where she hit .424 with five home runs and 34 RBI.
“Our team has a lot of depth,” coach Katie Bundy said. “We have a strong infield, with mostly underclassmen - freshman catcher, freshman first baseman and third baseman and a senior and sophomore middle infield. Madi (Merrell), Court (Courtney Spurlock) and Abi (Rope) will be a solid pitching trio, but each girl will have to fight for a position.”
Merrell saw a majority of time from the mound last year and compiled a 17-5 record alongside a 1.83 ERA and 135 strikeouts. Her efforts garnered serious college attention and next year she will be headed to BYU-Hawaii on a full-ride scholarship to play softball. The three other Bulldog seniors will also move on to play college softball next year. Spurlock will attend Chandler Gilbert Community College, Lexis Valenzuela will be attending Scottsdale Community College and Brooke Lynn Rushfesky will go to Mesa Community College, all to play softball.
“The four seniors are all going somewhere next year, but still have so much to learn,” said Bundy. “They can’t settle and they want to get better each day.”
The four seniors have helped lead the team to section championships the last three years and will look to do the same this season while also making it into the state playoffs as a high seed.
“We should be nine strong in the lineup with no holes and are looking to make a deep run in the playoffs and end up in top -four at least in division II,” said Bundy. “We want to be playing May 19 in the state championship game.”