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Lancer softball team reloads in Mesa League title quest Phillip Brents | Tue, Apr 19 2011 11:10 AM

The Hilltop Lancers and Bonita Vista Barons dueled right down to the wire for last year’s Mesa League pennant, with back-to-back losses to the Barons crushing the Lancers’ hopes for a championship.

The two longtime rivals are back again this season ready to battle for supremacy in league play, though Hilltop may sport more of a new look to its line-up due to graduation.

Ace hurler Alysha Isaacson is now attending the University of Dayton and recently picked up her first collegiate softball victory, while second baseman Maura Cien-Mayer is now attending the New York Institute of Technology.

Heading Hilltop’s 2011 talent parade are shortstop Fiona Finau, who has signed to play next year at San Diego State University, and pitcher-third baseman Natalia Rosales, who also expects to sign to play at the collegiate level. Also back is catcher Moncia Armas.

“We’re loaded with seniors,” veteran Lancer coach Nancy Acerrio said.

That senior leadership has helped Hilltop off to a 4-3 start, including a 3-0 showing in round-robin play in the 28th Hilltop tournament.

The Lancers will meet Southwest El Centro in an 11 a.m. playoff game Saturday at Olympian High School as the tournament finals get under way.

Hilltop opened the season with a 7-4 non-league victory against Patrick Henry in the Escondido Cougar Classic and followed with losses to Mt. Carmel (13-6), La Costa Canyon (4-1) and Mission Hills (2-1) to close out tourney play.

The Lancers opened play in their own tournament with victories against Brawley (3-2), Castle Park (12-2) and Morse (9-0).

Early season leaders include Tiffany Salcedo (.412 with eight RBI), Aida Martinez (.400 with one RBI), Finau (.333 with four RBI), Ariel Bochnick (.312 with two RBI), Armas (.286 with three RBI), Nikki Furuya (.278 with one RBI) and Rosales (.238 with nine RBI).

Luana Moreno had the team’s best earned-run average at 0.74 while Rosales was next with a 1.59 ERA.

Acerrio said one freshman to keep an eye on is outfielder Zoraya Nollet, who already has contributed with three RBI.

“She’s the type of ballplayer you want to have in the game — you can’t leave her on the bench,” the HHS coach said.

Finau, a four-year starter, has strength on her side and may set more than one school record before the season is over. She hit .417 last year with a .781 slugging percentage.

“As always, we’ll be looking to chase Bonita — they seem to have a lot of talent,” Acerrio said of the upcoming Mesa League championship race.

Hilltop opens league play with a two-game  series against Otay Ranch on April 13 (away) and 15 (home).

Tournament schedule (Olympian HIgh School): El Capitan vs. Otay Ranch, 9 a.m. Eastlake vs. Bonita Vista, 9 a.m. Hilltop vs. Southwest El Centro, 11 a.m. Brawley vs. Scripps Ranch, 11 a.m. Semifinals at 1 p.m. Final at 3 p.m.

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