San Lorenzo Valley High senior Ali Reger will help lead a Cougars softball team on the hunt for a third straight Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League crown. (Paul Firenzi/Press Banner)

Going into the 2024 season, San Lorenzo Valley was regarded as one of the favorites to capture this year’s Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League championship.

However, it hasn’t been the start the Cougars were expecting. They currently own a 7-7 overall record, already doubling their loss total from last season.

In league play, the Cougars are 3-1 with its lone defeat coming to Aptos, 9-1, on March 19. 

SLV is led by head coach Mark Brown, who is hoping for a turnaround halfway into their season. He said even though it’s not the picture perfect start they envisioned, they still see improvement.

“We haven’t had our best start but I’m seeing progress everyday and I know we will get it together going forward,” Brown said.

The Cougars are hoping to build off their success of capturing an SCCAL crown, going 15-0 in league play and finishing with an 18-3 overall record in 2023. They suffered a loss to nationally ranked Saint Francis of Mountain View in the Central Coast Section Open Division quarterfinals. 

SLV lost just three seniors in Bella Reynolds, Anaya Sutcliffe and the reigning SCCAL Pitcher of the Year Ameila Sizemore due to graduation. But they are returning a majority of last year’s league championship team and things seem to be turning around.

The Cougars had a pair of key victories including a 4-2 win over Ann Sobrato on March 5 and a 5-3 win against Valley Christian on March 15. They recently broke a four-game losing skid following a crushing 13-1 victory over Harbor and a 4-1 win against Santa Cruz in SCCAL action March 21 and 26, respectively.

SLV combined for 17 hits as a team and scored 13 unanswered runs before allowing Harbor’s lone run in the third inning. Sophomore Ray Alvarez had three hits and three runs batted in for the Cougars, while senior Alyssa Struthers had two hits. 

Alyssa Struthers—the reigning SCCAL’s Most Valuable Player and Concordia University Irvine commit—is leading the Cougars with 20 hits this season, according to statistics on the Monterey Bay Preps website.

“[Struthers] is a very special player,” Brown said. “Alyssa has a very high softball IQ, she gets it done both at the plate and on defense for us.”

Grace Purtcher, a freshman, had a big day for the Cougars, batting 3-for-3 with three RBIs at the plate in last week’s win over Harbor. She also pitched for three innings with four strikeouts. Fellow teammate sophomore Jori Fields-Rapley also pitched a pair of shutout innings in the win against the Pirates.

The Cougars shouldn’t have a problem with pitching depth this season. Fields-Rapley and Purtcher will share the workload in the circle this season with Abi Krepelka and senior Alison Reger.

“We have lots of pitching this season. I think once we find our rhythm we will get things going,” Brown said.

The Cougars are hoping to take advantage of a talented roster that features five seniors in Reger, Struther, Allison Bingham, Fallyn Lachmund and Olivia Renouf to make a postseason run.

“We have lots of potential on this team and talent on this team. Looking forward to seeing them grow the rest of the season and take it into CCS,” Brown said.

The Cougars have big goals that go further than just a third straight league championship.

“Our goal is to get ready for the postseason,” Brown said. “Last season didn’t really work out in our favor, but we gave it all we got with what was handed to us. But this year is a new season.”

SLV will host Scotts Valley on March 28 at 4:30pm before it gets a week off for Spring Break. The Cougars will return to the diamond against Soquel in Felton on April 9 at 4:30pm.

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