2014 Prep Softball Preview: Mary Star Aims To Build Off 2013 Run

Business has picked up for Mary Star High softball... again.

The 2011 season saw the Stars stun everyone to win the Camino Real League championship. In 2012, Mary Star would better that by not only winning the league for the second year in a row, it would post victories over both in-city neighbors Port Of Los Angeles and San Pedro, plus advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Division V quarterfinals. Last year, the Stars would up the ante once more.

Not expected to win a third straight Camino Real League championship, coach Gregg Aguilar and company would turn back the challenge of highly regarded Cantwell Sacred-Heart of Montebello to win the league yet again, and despite the 1-0 loss to Shadow Hills of Indio in the second round of the CIF-SS Division VI playoffs, it seemed like the Stars were ready to focus on 2014.

Yet, an illegal batting practice reversed the decision, disqualifying Shadow Hills in the process, and Mary Star would turn it around by knocking out top-seeded Pomona Catholic and fourth-seeded Rosamond to reach their first-ever CIF-Southern Section championship game, where Bell-Jeff of Burbank finally ended the Stars' dreams of a title.

So what will the future hold for the 2014 Stars?

Mary Star, who went 20-9 last season, will be paced by George Mason-bound, All-CIF pitcher Marina Vitalich, who has been quite the leader the Stars haven't had in quite some time. Keep in mind, Vitalich is still a junior, and that is not good news for all who oppose the Stars this season and next.

Vitalich, the reigning two-time Camino Real League Player and Pitcher Of The Year will also have her sister Amanda, a freshman stud with a cannon of an arm, to finally team up with her at shortstop, and be the Stars' backup pitcher whenever Marina, who also was a Cal-Hi Sports All-State Small Schools selection, gets a break. Having those two play alongside each other for the first time is going to provide plenty of excitement for Mary Star.

However, Mary Star returns a lot of other key factors from last year's run to the CIF-SS Division 6 final, such as junior infielder Lexie Geich, along with senior outfielders Christina Padilla, Jenna Clarke and Emily Buczko, who provide tons of leadership and experience to the table.

Marina Vitalich has to break in a new catcher for the third straight season, and in comes budding freshman Ghianna Fletcher to see how well she can do, as she has big shoes to fill from last year's All-CIF selection, Amber Nunez.

Aguilar also returns the likes of senior outfielder Victoria Vitalich (no relation to Marina and Amanda), sophomore utility player Sarah Rodriguez, senior infielder Miranda Luarca and senior infielder Mindy Marasigan, while other newcomers round out this team in the likes of Palos Verdes transfer Isabella Samperio, sophomore Kristyn Vara.

Freshman infielder Lexi Andrie and senior utility players Brina Garcia and Sarah Pearson all make their varsity debuts coming over from Mary Star's girls volleyball team.

With St. Bernard of Playa Del Rey disbanding their team, the Camino Real League now only has the Stars, plus Cantwell, Serra of Gardena and St. Monica of Santa Monica, meaning there are only two guaranteed playoff spots out of that league for the CIF-SS Division VI playoffs, so the youthful Mary Star team must finish in the top two if they don't get enough victories during the year to petition for an at-large bid.

Mary Star opens their season on Tuesday at the San Pedro Softball Complex against Chadwick of Rolling Hills.

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