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Tougher league, younger players presented challenges for Legionnaires softball

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Bonsall High School’s softball team was promoted to a higher league for 2023 after the Legionnaires ended 2022 as league champions. The 2022 Legionnaires included four seniors while the 2023 club had no seniors and only three juniors. Although the Legionnaires did not match their 2022 record, Bonsall still competed in the first round of this year’s CIF Division V playoffs.

“I’m happy, but I also know there was a lot to improve on,” said Bonsall coach Emily Casillas.

The Frontier Conference has two softball leagues: the Patriot League and the Summit League. Bonsall was in the Patriot League for 2022, and the Legionnaires had a 6-0 record in league play as part of an 11-5 overall record which includes a loss to Borrego Springs in the first round of the CIF Division V playoffs. This year Bonsall was in the Summit League along with Bayfront Charter, Liberty Charter and Mountain Empire.

Bonsall was 1-4 in Summit League play this year. The Legionnaires were 6-6 overall including a first-round playoff loss to Chula Vista Learning Community Charter.

“We got kicked around a little bit,” Casillas said. “It’s a combination of being placed in a higher league with tougher competition and also team growth. I think we can definitely improve on that.”

The 2023 team had five sophomores and six freshmen, and all four of the starting infielders were freshmen. “Most of them had played before. It’s just a different level than what they’re used to,” Casillas said.

The league win was against Mountain Empire at the Pala Sports Complex, where Bonsall’s home games are played. The Legionnaires traveled to Pine Valley for a game at Mountain Empire. Bonsall had the lead, but after the Redhawks disputed an umpire’s call and refused to take the field, the game was declared no contest rather than a Bonsall victory.

“When it ends like that there’s a lot of attitude going around,” Casillas said.

Bayfront Charter won the 2023 Summit League championship with a 6-0 record in league play including 11-1 and 18-1 triumphs over Bonsall. Liberty Charter was 4-2 in league play, losing twice to Bayfront Charter while winning a pair of 16-0 contests against the Legionnaires.

Bonsall’s only non-league loss during the regular season had a 16‑15 score and closed out the regular season May 12 at Guajome Park Academy. The Frogs overcame a 9-0 deficit by scoring nine runs in the bottom of the third. Bonsall scored once in the top of the fourth and Guajome Park scored twice in the bottom of that frame. Each team scored three runs in the fifth. Two Bonsall runs in the top of the sixth gave the Legionnaires a 15-14 lead. The Frogs scored their final two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Guajome Park batters reached base twice by double, five times by singles, twice on fielding errors, six times as hit batters and 14 times by drawing a walk.

The CIF playoff selection and seeding meeting was held May 13. Bonsall was given the twelfth seed in the Division V playoffs. Chula Vista Learning Community Charter shared the Patriot League title with a 7-1 league record, and the Cobras had the fifth seed in the Division V playoffs.

Bonsall’s 2023 wins included a 12-9 victory over the Cobras when the two teams played each other April 20 in Chula Vista. Last year when both teams were in the Patriot League the Legionnaires won by 25-5 and 22-8 margins.

The May 16 playoff game in Chula Vista was thus Bonsall’s first-ever loss to the Cobras. “That was a super close game,” Casillas said.

The game was closer than the 18-13 Borrego Springs win in the 2022 playoffs when the Legionnaires were seeded immediately above the Rams and the game was played in Pala.

“We plan to come back bigger and stronger next year,” Casillas said.

 

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