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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW-New and improved Valley Christian softball making waves in Olympic League

Valley Christian High freshman pitcher Rachel Zhang was in a zone against Village Christian High last Thursday. she struck out a dozen batters, including five straight at one point, scattered four hits and walked two in a 9-1 victory to keep the Defenders undefeated in Olympic League play at 3-0. PHOTO BY STEVE FERICEAN.

March 27, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

Valley Christian High’s softball team played 14 games last season, finishing 8-6 and losing in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 playoffs. Last Thursday was the 14th game of the season for the Defenders, who picked up their 11th win following a 9-1 win over Village Christian High in Olympic League action.

With at least six games remaining in the regular season, Valley Christian already has its most wins since going 13-14 in the 2015 season, and the Defenders are building off the momentum of a young 2023 season. But the program is preparing for the future, starting with freshman Rachel Zhang, who yielded four hits and struck out 12 as she picked up her sixth win opposite two losses. She is one of five freshmen on a team that has three seniors, three juniors and three sophomores.

“She did a good job; she throws the ball well,” said V.C. head coach Chet Kingery. “She worked her rise ball good and kept us off-balanced in the first inning. But we still managed to scratch across a couple of runs.

“But that’s the versatility of this team,” he continued. “We can squeeze bunt; we can do things when our powerhouse offense is anemic, we can do things to score runs. And that’s what I love about our offense.”

Zhang allowed a two-out single to Bree Brennan in the top of the first inning, a one-out double to Brennan in the fourth, a one-out infield knock to Olivia Higbee in the fifth and a leadoff single to Alina Newman in the sixth. Newman would move to second on an error, steal third and score on a groundout from Gaby Robel. Zhang tied her career-high in strikeouts and for the season, has 60 punchouts in 43 innings while yielding 46 hits and walking 19.


Valley Christian High sophomore third baseman Brianna Ramirez steals second in the bottom of the fifth inning against Village Christian High last Thursday after her single brought in junior first baseman Kayla Martin to give the Defenders a 5-0 lead at the time. Valley Christian would go on to defeat the Crusaders 9-1 and remain in a tie for first place in the Olympic League.


“Rachel pitches a few years above her age,” said Kingery. “Her moxie is outstanding. She knows when to focus and get some big time pitches for us. We work hard on the next pitch and if we focus on pitches prior, we’re not going to be successful. If we focus on the next pitch, then everything we’ve done before that is gone.”

Offensively, the Defenders, who are ranked second in the CIF-SS Division 5 poll, gave Zhang all the help she needed with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, sophomore catcher Peyton Kingery doubled to left field, advanced on a wild pitch and came home on a fielder’s choice from junior first baseman Kayla Martin. She would later make it 2-0 on a wild pitch as Valley Christian stranded the bases loaded.

But the hosts would blow the game open in the fifth when half a dozen players touched home plate. Kingery, Martin, sophomore third baseman Brianna Ramirez, and senior designated player Bella Bulthuis would all have run-scoring singles. Freshman right fielder Tallulah Ireland would also have a single in the frame as the Defenders had nine hits in the contest.

Unlike last season when the Defenders reached the postseason on the strength of just one pitcher, which was Bulthuis, now they have the luxury of two in the circle. Because Valley Christian only had Bulthuis, Chet Kingery scheduled just four non-league games to go with the eight league contests. This season, it’s completely different.

“Last year with Bella being our only pitcher, we cut our games way down just to save Bella,” said Chet Kingery. “We do have an acronym around here, which is called W.I.N., which stands for what is necessary. To us, league is necessary. All non-league games are great; they’re competitive and make us compete. But, what’s necessary at the end of the day for everybody is league. Having Rachel this year to complement Bella now gives me freedom to rest Rachel, because she does play in the outfield.

“It’s just like the next pitch, it’s the next game,” he later added. “So, the overall record…you glance at it and it’s always good to look at the leaderboard. But you really focus on the next game and what do we have to do to get better? We have to focus on Whittier [Christian] for the next two weeks and get better and go look at them.”

Unless the third-year coach for the Defenders can schedule someone over the next few weeks, Valley Christian’s next contest will be against Whittier Christian High on Apr. 9, which will be a battle for first place. Whittier Christian, an unranked Division 2 team, defeated Village Christian 13-0 this past Tuesday and visited California High on Mar. 28 before taking the next week and a half off ahead the game with the Defenders. Both Valley Christian and Whittier Christian are 3-0 in league play.

In other softball action, Artesia High fell to Cerritos High 5-1 this past Tuesday in a battle of the last remaining undefeated teams in the 605 League. The Pioneers fell to 8-6-1 overall, 3-1 in league while Cerritos, which is ranked 15th in Division 3, improved to 9-1, 4-0. Those teams met again on Mar. 28 for their final scheduled games until Apr. 9.

Struggling John Glenn High dropped a 6-5 decision to Whitney High this past Tuesday to see its mark go to 2-9, 0-4 while the Wildcats improved to 8-5, 1-2. They faced each other again on Mar. 28 and will not play a scheduled game until Apr. 9.

Norwalk High lost to Paramount High 4-3 this past Tuesday for its first Mid-Cities League setback in 13 contests. The Lancers dropped to 11-6, 2-1 and hosted Bellflower High on Mar. 28. They will entertain Legacy High on Thursday.


Artesia was blanked by Cerritos 13-0 this past Tuesday to fall to 6-6, 2-1 as those teams met again on Mar. 28 at Artesia. The Pioneers will entertain Kennedy High on Tuesday, go to Bosco Tech High on Wednesday and welcome Brentwood High on Thursday.

Gahr High, which is on the outside of the Division 1 poll looking in, rallied for a 5-4, eight inning home win against Warren High this past Tuesday to improve to 7-5 overall and 4-0 in the Gateway League. The Gladiators, who visited Warren on Mar. 28, will face Corona High on Monday in the first of four games of the National Classic.

La Mirada High, ranked eighth in the Division 1 poll, whitewashed Downey High 9-0 this past Tuesday to go to 11-3, 5-1. Those teams squared off again on Mar. 28 at Downey. The Matadores will begin bracket play of the Boras Classic on Tuesday against Rancho Bernardo High. That tournament runs through Apr. 5.

Norwalk, 3-10 overall, ended a seven-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over Maywood CES this past Tuesday. The Lancers are not scheduled to play again until Apr. 9 while Valley Christian lost to Maranatha High 9-3 last Friday in Olympic League action. The Defenders (6-7, 2-2), who hosted Redlands East Valley High on Mar. 28, are tied for third place in the circuit and open a three-game series with last place Heritage Christian High on Tuesday.

Whitney was slammed by Glenn 22-1 this past Tuesday as the Wildcats lost for the eighth time in nine games. Those teams met again on Mar. 28 and the ‘Cats will not play again until Apr. 9.


The accolades keep coming for several basketball and soccer coaches and players as the All-CIF-SS teams were recently released. Listed below are the recipients.

Boys basketball

Division 1

La Mirada freshman Gene Roebuck.

Division 4AA

Cerritos head coach Jonathan Watanabe (Coach of the Year)

Cerritos senior Shay Pema (Player of the Year)

Cerritos senior Tobenna Ozoagu

Girls basketball

Division 3AA

Cerritos senior Onyekachi Nwanze

Division 5AA

La Mirada senior Jirah Domingo

Boys soccer

Division 6

Gahr junior Alvaro Mendoza

Girls soccer

Division 4

Valley Christian senior Ava Haas

Division 7

Artesia head coach Hugo Umana (Coach of the Year)

Artesia junior Merielle Navor (Player of the Year)

Artesia junior Melissa Ornelas

Artesia sophomore Alexis Garma

Artesia freshman Briana Remigio