Robert Poppe has coached many a Vintage High softball player over the last decade in the Napa Valley Girls Fastpitch League at Kiwanis Park.
After coaching both the younger and older teams to championships last summer, the owner of NVGFA sponsor A.M.P. Construction he said he was contacted by Vintage Athletic Director Cam Neal about being the Crushers’ head coach.
“I honestly never really thought about being a high school head coach. I just know that I really love the sport and enjoy working with the youth in our community. With that said, after meeting with the AD and principal of Vintage, both wonderful people, I decided I wanted to be a part of the Crusher Nation and help build a program for the girls and the school.”
Poppe said it’s always been convenient to coach in the NVGFA because the games are at night.
“High school is a whole ‘nother ball game. It is much more demanding of my time. The commitment is huge, but luckily for me, I love the sport, and the group of players I get to work with every day are wonderful kids. I usually have to work Saturday and Sunday to make up for the time lost during the week from coaching softball, but I’m not complaining.”
Why would he? The Crushers are off to a 3-0 start, having beaten powerhouse Vanden 9-5 in eight innings, Maria Carrillo 2-1 and Santa Rosa 18-1.
Poppe had no qualms about coaching at Vintage even though his younger daughter, Sabra, was a senior on the Napa High soccer team this winter and his older daughter, 2016 Napa High graduate Amanda, played for the rivals’ softball team.
His Crushers are already one win away from matching last year’s overall win total.
“I feel great about our chances this year with a new league, new coach, new players,” he said. “I realize Vintage struggled last year, but that’s sports. You don’t always have winning seasons. I just stress to the girls ‘basic fundamentals, work hard at your position, know what to do with the ball at any given time and, most importantly, have fun. Enjoy the sport.’”
Vintage’s team features seniors Ally Warren, Simone Sullivan, Sierra Crocker and Taylor Brandt, juniors Gracey Shelfo, Morgan Groves, Jewel Kenny, Sarah Husted and Haley Schreiner, sophomores Jordan Allen and Daniela Contreras, and freshmen Raimy Gamsby, Shelby Morse and Camila Barboza.
The Crushers are led once again by sophomore Jacob Aaron and senior and fourth-year starter Dylan McIntyre, who have each shot 79 or better in two 18-hole tournaments so far. Another four-year starter is senior Will Hiserman. Rounding out the team are juniors Colby Baumbach, Pierce Brown, Cody Freitas and Sebastien Hoxsey, sophomores Zach Guck and Riley Hatfield, and freshmen Mychael Holloran, Carsten Krihak, DJ Quick and Nick Young.
“This year’s team is shaping up pretty well after a slow start due to the rainy weather,” head coach Arvin Persaud said. “We have pretty consistent scorers, 1 through 6, and the team is pretty deep through the top eight. Currently, less than a 2-stroke average separates our No. 2 from our No. 6, so we’ve been fairly consistent.”
Like Napa and American Canyon, the only other VVAL schools that currently offer this sport other than Petaluma and Casa Grande, Vintage had to scramble to fill up the four boys singles spots, two boys doubles and two mixed doubles spots after competing as a girls-only sport in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
“We’ve been trying to recruit boys. As word gets out, it gets better,” Crushers head coach Robyn Del Zompo said. “We had some boys who said ‘Yeah, I’ll play’ and then once they start playing they realize it’s more athletic than they think and they (quit).
“Even though it’s the first year for the boys, they’re really trying hard. But there are (female) veterans out there, so it’s tough for them. But Silverado and Redwood (middle schools) have teams, and some kids at the eighth-grade curriculum fair said they’ll play next year.”
Vintage has only two seniors in Ixchel Sanchez and Stephanie Cigarroa, who are top players along with juniors Mary Lastrella, Emma Hall and Sara Ledesma and sophomore Carla Magana.
The other juniors are Monse Perez, Malia Cruz, Vineela Donthi, Bianca Sanchez-Alfaro, Stefany Perez, Valeria Corona, Esmeralda Gutierrez and Maria Duran.
Along with Magana, the 26 sophomores are Abigail Rock, Samira Flores, Victoria Caldron, Ava Rubin, Estefania Vazquez, America Diaz, Humberto Servin, Alondra Infante, Daisy Torres, Perla Rodriguez, Morelia Cebrero, Kyli Cleveland, Gustavo Urena Vazquez, Seham Steyteyieh, Louis Deckman, Miranda Rodriguez, Adilene Perez, Isabella Salgado, Emma Streeter, Maria Huerta, Ailin Meza, Carlos Cigarroa, Natalie Wrenn, Angel Padilla and Catcher Ruybal.
The freshmen are Melany Fuentas, Alfonso Beas , Isabela Hernandez Segura, Jessica Young, Alexis Melgoza Rodriguez, Marlene Ramirez, Maria Mendoza, Monica Flores, Sarah Reid, Tommy Chrisco and Marjaine Rodriguez.
The Crushers are 3-4 with a pair of one-run losses, so head coach Rich Anderson felt good about the team after it fell 7-3 to visiting Oak Ridge on Tuesday, despite a 10-day wait before their VVAL opener against Justin-Siena on March 22.
“I don’t believe in moral victories, but at one point yesterday (Monday’s 4-3 home loss to Maria Carrillo), we had a sophomore at third base, a sophomore at first, a sophomore on the mound and a sophomore at catcher,” he said. “But if you’re on the varsity, you’re on the varsity, so we expect good things to happen. We preach getting to the late innings in a one-run game, whether we’re up by a run or down by a run, and figuring out a way to win, and we’re definitely headed in that direction.”
Vintage goes into league play on a two-game skid.
“We’re playing solid baseball, but that and finding out how to win are two different things,” Anderson added. “We have competition within the team, we have depth, so all that’s good. We just need to turn it into better results. It’s going to be a whole new season in 10 days, so we’re going to go at it with hard practices and look forward to that Friday like it’s opening day.”
Two senior leaders are fourth-year varsity player Max Phipps, one of the vocal leaders, and third-year player Eli Wood, the team’s ace and shortstop when not pitching.
“(Seniors) Troy Ghisletta and Felix Ortiz started almost every game last year and now they’ve been splitting time with younger guys and I’ve been super impressed with how they’ve handled it. They’ve been big contributors, too. They’ve made their way back into the lineup several times because they’re willing to compete.”
Also on the team are seniors Sebastian Dennis, Luke Leachman, Zach Joson, Jaime Hernandez and Gunnar DeYoung, juniors Jake Whipple, Jayge Campbell, Dylan Payne, Harrison Kohagura, Logan Lines, Justin Van Maren, Sean Pratt, Ethan Hemmerlin, Nico Manahan and Aiden Storck, and sophomores Ian Avalos, Alex Dehzad, Davide Migotto and Logan Nothmann.
Justin is a good team. I don’t know how we beat them 7-0, but we did. We’ve got four solid singles players, who I think are interchangeable. One day Paul can beat Connor and Jackson can beat both of them, and Jack can lose to Connor, but nobody’s beaten Lucas. He’s a stud.
The Crushers’ four singles players are freshman No. 1 Lucas Bollinger, whom head coach Chris Cole said is ranked 10th in the state on the junior circuit for his age division, senior No. 2 Connor Castelazo, sophomore No. 3 Jackson Cole, and freshman No. 4 Paul Saleh.
Currently in doubles are senior Antonio Fernandez and Adam Maxson at No. 1, seniors Justin Berilla and Finn Glascott at No. 2, and senior Caymus Barrett and sophomore Andrew Diana at No. 3. Rounding out the small, 12-player squad are freshmen Alex Housley and Kelton Jensen.
Cole, in his sixth year at the helm, said he has such a small team because he has a committed bunch.
“We used to be kind of a dumping ground for athletes that got cut in other sports, and I was too nice, but they showed up when they wanted to and they weren’t honoring the sport,” he asid. “I told the kids this year, ‘It’s going to be an honor to be on this team, and we’re going to work hard and win the league.’ As a result, these guys know they’re going to play, even my exhibition doubles guys. It’s nice because everybody has a role and everybody loves the team and stays around to watch their teammates when they’re done playing.”
Track and Field
Coming off a strong cross country season, Crushers head coach Brian Pruyn said the track team is distance-focused. The boys are led by senior Manny Guzman and junior Dylan Frye and the girls by sophomore Mary Deeik.
“In all of the other areas, we’re fairly developmental – probably over half the team is first-year athletes – but we’re going to be getting better throughout the season and the next couple of years. They’re young and they still have to develop and learn a lot of skills and techniques, but they’ve got great attitudes.
The girls also feature seniors Kaleena Jezycki, Michaela Kreps, Samantha Linteo, Megan Malito, Naomi Martin, Angelita Massey, Abigail Scheumann, Bianca Cortez and Isabelle DeGraff, and juniors Amy Alfaro, Anastasia Busby, Kasandra Deharo, Amber Elias, Michelle Herrera, Madison Klungel and Paulina Sanchez.
Along with Deeik, the sophomores are Mariana Aguirre, Lauren Barrett, Julia Scheumann, Yadira Garcia, Tamara Hernandez, Elizabeth Milat, Reagyn Shoop, Jordan Simi, Samantha Sweet, Kayla Tavakoli and Isabella Hutnik. The freshmen are Angelica Avila, Natasha Beitz, Alondra, Benitez Garcia, Juliana Catalan, Maggie Chapin, Melissa Cortez, Abigail Frye, Lucy Miller, Betzy Paniagua,
Maeve Roberts, Isabella Sarao, Sophia Schellhamer, Cecily Greenberg, Faith Hamilton, Livia Hedberg and Elena Vandenburg.
Rounding out the boys are seniors Jake Hall, Mason Becker, Aidan McConnehey, Alfonso Medina, Ryan Olson, Myles Crutcher and Jesse Zapata, juniors Dema Shatnawi, Dyan Soriano Flores, Charlize Swindle, Neri Aguilar, Gerson Carlos, Bryan Carreto, Stephen Cole, Matthew Lewis, Michael McDowell, Alex Pantoja, Aldo Rodriguez, Andres Solorio, Sebastian Vance, Jose Vazquez, Jonathan Wachowski and Konrad Fiske.
The sophomores are Noah Mochwart, Erik Borrayo, Genaro Espinoza, Rodrigo Farfan, Samuel Lee, Yair Sandoval and Dylan Scott. The freshmen are Ahnali Wisniewski, Sueliey Jauregui, Liam Alexander, Nicholas Dominici, Benjamin Feldstein, Nicholas Malito, Jose Rodarte, Ethan Stabile, Nicholas Wagener, Aldo Alvarado and Daniel Lopez.
The Crushers have been plagued with injuries to girls captains Sophia Bristow and Mickey Medina and boys captain Jack Diakon, said head coach Liza Saunders.
“That being said, both teams have a couple of experienced swimmers and most are water polo players staying in shape and becoming faster for next season,” she said.
The girls’ senior captains are Ally Peterson, Sarah Schnebelt and Amanda Garcia. For the juniors, captains Grace O’Dwyer and Lindee Clem will be the ones to watch, along with Aedyn Frazer, Maya Douglas and Sofia Leonardini.
In the sophomore group, Ava Anderson, Josephine Borsetto and Erynn Robinson have stepped up, as have freshmen Emily Hayashi, Ainsley Adams and Elise Gonzalez. The JV girls are 3-0 in league action.
The varsity boys are 3-0 in the VVAL.
“This young team is a workhorse,” Saunders said. “At every meet, they continue to improve and work as a team. This group understands that they are all contributors.”
The leaders are senior Aidan Davis, juniors Luke Galles and Stephen Kastner, sophomores Nico D’Angelo and Tyler Kortie, and freshmen Carson McClintick, Will Flint, Mateo Roldan and Matthew Larson. The JV boys are also 3-0 in league.
Rounding out the girls are seniors Sophia Bristow and Mikayla Medina, juniors Leslie Beas, Paris Bader, Romina Castro Cervera, Raquel Davis, Toni Dodson, Erika Eberhardt, Aedyn Frazer, Ariana Gallegos, Karen Hernandez, Shawna Ma and Samantha Yoder, sophomores Ava Anderson, Julia Barazi, Presley Calkins, Jaklyn Cole, Elisa Gonzalez, Alessia Gressi, Elena Irwin, Alexa Mozqueda, and Jessie Romero, and freshmen Ashley Andrews, Myla Bullock, Isabella Celsi, Emma Ordonez-Enos, Meredith Fishleder, Alexis Hutnik, Ellie Kidd, Magenta McNeelan, Grace Pergerson, Madison Poljanec and Brandi Valantine.
The boys are rounded out by juniors Sam Hebb, Phillip Ross, Michael Vandenburg and Luke Williams, sophomores Carson Bacci, Jackson Carmichael, Dominic Dandini, Caleb Hedemark, Troy Kobylka, Aiden Magee and Korbin Pierce, and freshmen Emilio Castro, Mason Davis, John McNamara, Nico Solorio and Jack Webster.