It’s no secret or surprise to anyone in the local softball community that the team from Tracy High will feature some of the strongest pitching in the area thanks to senior Jenni Holtz.
But it is surprising how quickly she hit her form.
Holtz, bound for Division I college softball in Georgia following her last year in a Bulldog uniform, has already thrown five shutouts — two of which were no-hitters — and has struck out 88 batters in eight preseason starts, all but one of which, the Stephanie Le Doux Tournament championship Saturday, were Tracy High wins.
More impressive than her 88 Ks is the fact that they came with only five walks, an average of 10 strikeouts and less than one walk per game.
“She’s one of the best in the area, in my mind,” said Tracy coach Greg Smith, who’s been at the helm of the squad since 1993. “We have a good offense behind her and a good defense behind her — but she makes us really, really good as our pitcher.”
Behind Holtz, the Bulldogs rolled to an undefeated season in the San Joaquin Athletic Association and qualified for the playoffs a year after advancing to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game as a No. 16 seed. But they exited the 2006 tournament after a 10-run defeat at the hands of West in the quarterfinals.
This year, expectations are just as high. In addition to Holtz, the Bulldogs return junior catcher Nikki Moreno, who’s batting an astronomical .567 with a slugging percentage of .900, and who leads the team in RBIs with 11.
Tracy has youthful talent, too. Sophomore leadoff hitter Morgan Hayes and classmate Katie Turner are batting .355 and .351, respectively, with Hayes also enjoying a .400 on-base percentage. Turner is right behind Moreno in RBIs with 10.
And players are stepping up to fill gaps have been left by graduation. Junior Jessica Riconscente is hitting .407 with three stolen bases, and junior Katie Stutz is hitting .371, one of nine Tracy hitters batting .300 or higher in the preseason.
According to Smith, whose team will vie for its third league title in his tenure, the only negative is that players who might start for other teams are left on the bench — but according to Holtz, it’s not causing any problems.
“I feel like we’re meshing pretty good together,” Holtz said. “I just think we’re going to do good.”