May 02, 2016
The landmark achievements keep adding up for the DVC softball program.
The Vikings, who will host Merced in a best-of-three series to open the CCCAA Northern Regional, will have home playoff games for the second straight year, and for the second year ever.
No. 7 seeded DVC (26-13-1) and No. 10 Merced (26-11), runner-up in the Central Valley Conference, will meet at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Pleasant Hill, and again at noon on Sunday. If necessary, a third game will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
"That's nice," DVC coach Dennis Luquet said of staying home for the Regional. "That was one of the team's goals at the start of the year."
Last year, DVC swept another Central Valley foe, Reedley, in the Regional to advance to the Northern Super Regional for the first time. Then the Vikings beat West Valley, before falling to Big 8-rival San Joaquin Delta 10-2.
Just advancing out of the bruising Big 8 Conference is no small feat.
"Our league is, we just beat the heck out each other, so you just try to survive," Luquet said. "There were four at-large teams accepted to the state tournament, and all four were from our league."
The Vikings have ridden the arm of All-State pitcher Nicole Nordahl, an Albany High graduate who is headed to Division II UC San Diego and leads the state in strikeouts with 260.
After dropping five of their final six conference games, the Vikings haven't played since an unsightly 9-1 loss to Cosumnes River on April 26. They should refreshed and recharged for the playoffs.
"Our pitcher, Nicole Nordahl, has to pitch every inning, so she just kind of wore down by the end," Luquet said. "So that (break) will be a great rest for her. She'll come out really strong for the first game. I think overall for all the girls it will be a nice break, a nice rest, so they'll be ready to go."
Julianna Deighton, a second baseman/leadoff and Benicia graduate, has been a revelation with a team-best .419 batting average.
"Julianna Deighton had a phenomenal year," Luquet said. "She was somebody we didn't even think would play, let alone start at second base and do that well."
Deighton made first-team all-Big 8, along with Nordahl. Bailey Simmons (Pinole Valley) and Kaitlyn VanMotman (Concord) made second team all-conference.
Luquet said the key to the team is pitching and the top of the batting order. Deighton is adept at getting on base, and VanMotman (.312 batting average) is another lefty slap-hitter and good bunter. Teams tend to pitch around No. 3 hitter Cynthia Duenas (Pinole Valley), who leads the team with six home runs, 25 RBIs and a .508 slugging percentage. That sets the table for No. 4 hitter Simmons, who has a .319 average, three home runs and 23 RBIs.
"Those are the key players for us," Luquet said of the top four in the lineup. "When they come up we can score."
Merced has a good pitcher and some good hitters, and Luquet expects a similar opponent to what the team faced in Reedley a year ago.
The Vikings, who finished tied with American River in fifth place, weren't even sure of they were going to get in to the playoffs, because they dropped two of three against ARC. But DVC's 9-4 nonconference record against teams seeded in the playoffs, along with two wins over Big 8 champion Sacramento City, made a strong case for them.