By Zach Cavanagh
MISSION VIEJO – San Juan Hills softball is on the precipice of uncharted territory.
The Stallions program has never won a league title and never won more than four league games in their previous 10 seasons of varsity competition.
Through four Sea View League games, San Juan Hills is 4-0 and sits alone on top of the league standings.
San Juan Hills secured its fourth league win with clutch hits at the top of its lineup and the fifth shutout of the season from junior Phoebe Popplewell to down Trabuco Hills, 5-0, on Thursday at Trabuco Hills High School.
San Juan Hills’ Gracyn Houmis talks about the Stallions 5-0 win at Trabuco Hills and their 4-0 start to Sea View League play. Houmis hit 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs. @sjhhsathletics @SjhSoftball @Smalley_Jen pic.twitter.com/thHSC5hvMq
— South OC Sports (@SouthOCsports) April 20, 2018
“We’ve just been killing it in league this year,” senior Gracyn Houmis said. “We’ve come together really well as a team, and whenever we need those clutch hits, we’re coming together and getting the job done. We’re coming to the game and thinking we own the plate.”
San Juan Hills (15-7, 4-0) is ranked No. 3 in CIF-SS Division 4. The Stallions play at Laguna Hills on Monday and return to league play hosting El Toro on Thursday, April 26.
“I think this is the first year we’ve actually had a very strong team all around,” San Juan Hills coach Heather Hamilton said. “Strong infield, strong outfield, catching, pitching, batters, everybody.”
The Stallions are paced offensively by a strong group of seniors that are also able to lock it down on the other side of the ball.
“Our defense,” San Juan Hills coach Kelly Hambrick said of the team’s strength. “With the seniors leading the infield, (against) Dana Hills there were two runs, Tesoro had one. Our defense and our pitching has really been able to keep us in games and let us get enough across the plate to get the ‘dub.”
San Juan Hills had a runner on in each inning and loaded the bases in the second inning, but the Stallions didn’t break through until the fourth inning.
Junior Jordan Parkhurst laced a double to score freshman Emily Freeman from third and junior Angelica Gonzalez from first. Houmis followed up with an RBI single to score Parkhurst for the 3-0 lead.
San Juan Hills loaded the bases again in the sixth inning, and this time Houmis came through with a single that scored Freeman and Gonzalez for the five-run advantage.
“We have a really solid top of the lineup,” Houmis, who bats second, said. “We can all count on each other to get a base hit, come in clutch and get he job done for everybody.”
The score could’ve been titled even further in the Stallions’ direction with 11 runners left on base in the game, but the five runs were more than enough for Popplewell and the defense.
Popplewell scattered eight hits and walked only one batter for her 14th win of the season.
“We don’t feel like she actually had her same ‘umph,’” Hamilton said. “She always goes in and knows what her goal is. She has a plan set. She’s always communicating with our catchers.”
San Juan Hills has allowed eight runs in their first four league games with five coming in a 15-5 rout of El Toro to open league play. The Stallions look for their first-ever five-win league season against El Toro on Thursday, April 26 at home and will look to sweep defending league champion Dana Hills on May 1 on the road.
“We’re putting the 4-0 behind us,” Houmis said. “Just playing our game and battling through.”