By John Philip Wyllie
Inheriting a young, inexperienced team at Bonita Vista High School softball coach John Carlson knew one of the few players he could count on coming into this season was veteran catcher Laura Lopez. What he didn’t foresee was the sudden emergence of sophomore pitcher Laura Sheffield. Together, this Baron battery has accounted for five of the surprising Barons six wins. Off to a blazing 6-1 start after defeating third-ranked Torrey Pines and Mar Vista this week, the Barons are turning what was expected to be a rebuilding season into a banner year. Carlson’s Shef-field-Lopez battery deserves a lot of the credit.
“Let’s put it this way,” Carlson said prior to Tues-day’s victory over the Mariners, “we are 5-1 as a team and (Sheffield) is 5-1 as a pitcher. She has come out of nowhere. Nobody knew what to expect of her.”
Sheffield combines speed, an ability to hit her spots and a very effective change-up pitch to get the job done. “Her mental make-up has been phenomenal and she hasn’t wavered a bit. She has done a tremendous job and she is only a sophomore,” Carlson said. He was equally enthusiastic about the play of his “field general” Lopez.
“Her best quality is her fire,” Carlson explained. “She pumps everybody up and she is a leader behind the plate. This is her third year of varsity (competition), so I lean on her a little more than I do on the younger players.” This season he is asking her to play an expanded role.
“In the past she has caught for experienced pitchers such as Emily Turner (currently starring at LSU) and Briana Carrera. Now she is being asked to nurse along a sophomore that has never pitched against (top-notch) teams like Torrey Pines,” Carlson said.
After giving up three early runs on Monday, Sheffield, with Lopez helping to calm her, took control of the game and kept the Falcons from increasing their lead. The Baron bats then sprang to life and began chipping away. With the score tied 3-3, a dramatic bottom of the seventh Kristi Randall home run provided the margin of victory.
Sheffield praised her catcher after the victory.
“She encourages me when I am on the mound and she brings me up when I’m down. With catchers like her, you can go a long way.”
Lopez was equally complimentary about Sheffield, a player she barely knew coming into the season.
“I talk to Laura a lot and help her to focus on the next play not the last one. I know what it is like to be new on a team, so I just try to be encouraging and supportive.” That encouragement has eased Sheffield’s transition from a little-known JV player into the number one pitcher on a very solid team.
“I didn’t really want to play varsity softball this year,” Sheffield said. “I didn’t think I’d fit in with the girls. But now they are like family.”