It’s not every day that a freshman makes an impact on a high school softball team in one of the nation’s most competitive regions. When a team has two, it attracts some curiosity. When a team has three, people take notice. Such was the case for Torrey Pines High School, which won the Palomar League record with a 9-1 record with freshmen Makena Macias, Haley White and Valentina Perrone earning starting roles by midseason.
“It’s very unusual,” longtime Torrey Pines coach Jonathan Moore said.
Macias, White and Perrone are expected to help lead a team that returns eight starters, including five third-year seniors, and forge a nucleus that should carry the team for years to come. The three freshmen are playing travel ball this summer and have already drawn interest from some Division I colleges.
How the Falcons’ season next year takes shape remains to be seen, but Moore, who’s coached the team for 20 seasons, can’t recall a more talent-rich group of returnees.“Overall, this will be the most talented group ever,” Moore said.
The Falcons have had many talented groups since Moore took over the program, winning eight league championships and two San Diego Section titles over that period. They’ve made the Division I or Open Division playoffs in 19 of 20 seasons under Moore.
The Falcons’ freshmen threesome all played key roles in last season’s team that advanced to the Open Division quarterfinal as a No. 7 seed.
Macias emerged as one of the Falcons’ most dangerous bats, moving into the cleanup spot – an unusual role for a freshman. She batted .426 (40 for 94) with 11 extra base hits. A catcher by trade, Macias split time behind the plate with Perrone, who’s the better defender. But Moore couldn’t keep her bat out of the lineup, playing her at first base, second base, the outfield and designated hitter.
White became the Falcons’ No. 1 starter midway through the season, replacing incoming junior Kiley Rose, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She excelled in that role, eventually being named the Palomar League’s Pitcher of the Year after going 10-4 with a 1.50 ERA in 23 games.
Perrone batted .281 (9 for 32). Her primary tool is her defense. Perrone threw out more than 50 percent of would-be base stealers.
The freshman battery partners each played every inning of both playoff games.
“They had to prove themselves and they did as the season went on,” Moore said. “It was a fair process, they worked their way into the lineup and halfway through the season it was obvious that Perrone was our best catcher and Macias was our best hitter.”
White’s opportunity came amid entirely different circumstances. Rose was 9-2 with a 2.64 ERA in a season shortened by illness. The Falcons won six of her last seven starts.
But White seized the moment, throwing a complete game in A 12-inning, 3-2 league win against Westview in her varsity debut.
Moore said he was impressed with how all three handled the varsity spotlight, which can be intimidating for freshmen.
“It’s hard to be a freshman and be starting and expect juniors and seniors to be on the bench,” Moore said. “It wasn’t an easy thing but they handled it great. They showed a lot of maturity.”
They will be expected to handle leadership roles going forward.
“What I want from these three is to continue to be good team players,” Moore said. “It’s a little hard because we have five returning seniors, but I’d like to see them be leaders. I look them to be captains their junior and senior years.
The Falcons will have plenty of leadership next season. Their senior class includes two Division I-bound players.
Third baseman Xstaviana “Stavi” Augur has committed to Coastal Carolina, and shortstop Cassie Kaelber to University of Chicago.
Rose has committed to Division II Dominican College of New York .
Center fielder Sydny Poh, an incoming senior who’s also a Division I prospect, is recovering from a shoulder injury.
But it won’t be long before the freshman standouts of last season take on leadership roles.
“After next year we lose five starters, so they’re going to be the future,” Moore said.