There are some new faces in key spaces this season for the Santa Clara Bruins. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Bruins’ varsity team has a new head coach. Julie Kawamoto takes over at the helm replacing John Rahbar, who had been coaching varsity since 2001. In the pitcher’s circle, Bruins’ four-year varsity pitcher Kathryn Caravalho is now a freshman in college. Helping take over on the mound this year is senior Victoria Latz.
Despite the changes in key roles, the Bruins still have tremendous thump throughout their lineup. Along with Latz hitting cleanup, Santa Clara returns strong hitters all over the diamond. Starting infielders Nevaeh Tayama, Hailey Tran, and Sierra Trujeque are all back for another year. The speedy Abigail Klahold catches and hits leadoff, while fleet-of-foot outfielders Alisa Bontrager and Nicole Saulus also return from last season.
“We’re very excited for this season,” said coach Kawamoto. “The girls have been working really hard. In January, we were in the weight room, conditioning, running, doing the bleachers.”
Tuesday marked just the second game of the season for the Bruins. Yet Santa Clara hit through the order in the top of the first inning as they dropped an eight-run barrage against Monta Vista. Klahold hit twice in the first, leading off the game with a double before adding another double with an RBI, pushing the lead to 7-0. Santa Clara would go on to beat the Matadors 18-2 in five innings.
“She’s been crushing the ball,” added coach Kawamoto on Klahold. “She has taken the lead of our catcher this season, doing a great job and already taking a leadership role. Not very often do you have a catcher leading off, I couldn’t ask for more from her.”
Watch just one Bruins game and it is apparent the squad has plenty of on-field leadership. Senior captains Latz and Tayama both demonstrated leadership by example against the Matadors. Latz stayed composed on the mound for all five innings and smoked multiple extra-base hits from her cleanup spot. Tayama also had a nice day at the plate, but most impressively she sprinted 30-yards and dove into foul territory to attempt to catch a pop up. The game was already 11-1 at that point.
“She goes all out for everything,” praised Latz on her fellow captain, Tayama. “No matter what the play calls for, she’ll do it and that sets the tone for our whole team and how we wanna play. She helps keep our expectations high.”
Latz was the only player to pitch last season outside of Caravalho. But the senior only threw nine innings last year as a junior. Caravalho threw over 150. Now counted on to be the ace, Latz admitted there to be some nerves heading into the season.
“I’m nervous, but I think it’s going to be good, nice to have a fresh start,” chimed the senior. “Kind of going in blindly because I didn’t get much experience last year, but I think I’m going to do pretty good this year.”
Both offensively and defensively the Bruins boast a blend of power and speed that will be difficult for opponents to match. Santa Clara plays next on Friday, March 8 when they host Del Mar.