By John Philip Wyllie
Undefeated in their first 16 outings, Bonita Vista High School’s softball team has triumphed over an impressive list of the county’s top teams while getting off to its best start ever. Among the contributors to the team’s success this year, are a pair of Mexican-American athletes, Vanessa Iapala and Briana Carrera. While this pitcher-catcher tandem has played on some good teams together during their four years of varsity softball, they have never seen anything quite like this.
“Briana has been my partner out here since freshman year,” explains the Oregon State bound Iapala who catches for the Barons and ranks among the county’s elite hitters. “We are best friends off the field as well, so it is easy to transition from school to softball. She’s a great pitcher and she works really hard.”
“Since freshman year, we’ve seen each other every day and really gotten to know each other well,” adds Carrera. “ I trust her when it comes to anything about school or softball. She does a great job behind the plate calling the game.” Carrera also has some insight into the best way to pitch to Iapala, a player who has already broken Bonita’s all-time career home run mark with the entire intra-league portion of the schedule still in front of her.
“The smartest thing to do would be to walk her,” says Carrera. “You don’t ever want to pitch her a change up and pitchers are afraid to come inside on her. But when they pitch her outside, that’s her favorite pitch.” Pitchers throughout the county have learned the hard way this spring that Carrera’s assessment on Iapala’s toughness at the plate is correct. On several occasions she has come up with key hits when the game was hanging in the balance. Both players would like nothing better than to cap their careers with a CIF Division I softball championship.
“Our biggest highlight of the season so far was beating Mira Mesa 1-0 to win the Hilltop Tournament,” said Baron coach Lance Christensen. “Mira Mesa was the top ranked team in the county and ranked 22nd I believe, in the entire country. We also went 4-0 in the Rancho Buena Vista Tournament. We played Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Escondido and Mt. Carmel and they were some tough games.” With all their success, Christensen is cautioning his players about being overconfident as they begin league play.
“We are very excited about (our start), but we can’t rest on it. There is a lot of work to do and we can still improve on a lot of things.” Christensen will be counting on seniors like Iapala and Carrera to both contribute on the field and to provide leadership in what he expects will be a competitive league season.
“Vanessa is a phenomenal hitter and she is also an outstanding defensive player primarily as a catcher, but also while playing first base.” Christensen said. “She really understands the game and plays it in a very intelligent way. She is always there for you and really comes through in the clutch.”
“Briana has been an outstanding pitcher here since she arrived as a freshman. I believe she owns the school record for career wins and we still have half a season yet to play. She mixes it up pretty well with her arsenal of five pitches. She throws a fast ball for location, a change up and rise,” Christensen said. And all of them are equally effective.
If Iapala can continue hitting the way she has and if Carrera can add a few more wins to her already impressive total, Bonita Vista should be strong contenders for what could be the team’s first ever CIF Championship.