PASCO -- After a slew of sophomores helped lead the Columbia Basin College softball team to within a game of last year's NWAACC tournament, an influx of freshmen will need to carry the Hawks in 2012.
Eleven first-year players are suiting up for the Hawks, who will host Clackamas today and three-time defending NWAACC champion Mt. Hood on Sunday.
"We are very young in academic status as far as being freshmen or sophomores, but I don't think we're really that young," coach Adrian Ochoa said. "We've got some freshmen who are going to lead us on the field because they've got a lot of experience with travel teams."
Ochoa was new as the Hawks' head coach last season. Though his freshman players might require a little time to settle in, Ochoa's adjustment period thankfully is over.
"I've been running the program the way I want to run the program," said Ochoa, a former assistant to Eric Weisgerber. "Last spring, I still couldn't really make a 100 percent transition to my team, my program, because I didn't really want to shake things up too much."
Now, Ochoa and assistant Alex Cuello are determining how the lineup will look this year.
Richland product Madison Chambers is a lock to start at shortstop, while Julissa Perales, who starred for Capital High School in Olympia, will work behind the plate.
Also joining the Hawks this season are shortstop/catcher Stephanie Hunter (Kamiakin), outfielder Holly Perry (Moses Lake) and utilityman Danielle Clark (Kennewick), as well as utilityman Kelsey Randich (Olympia) and former Oregon players Lauren Short (Madras) and Shawney Garcia (McLoughlin).
Ochoa also brought in three players who were coached by his father, Rudy, at Othello.
Outfielder Miranda Martinez, pitcher/infielder Brenda Rodriguez and infielder JoAnna Quezada helped the Huskies go 3-2 during last year's 2A state tournament.
"I continue to get kids from my dad because they know how to win," Ochoa said.
As for returning players, the Hawks have welcomed back former Kamiakin standout Breann Feser, who last season batted a team-best .438 (57-for-130).
"She had a great season last year, and she's been a great leader," Ochoa said of his team captain. "She's shown a lot of direction to these underclassmen."
Pitcher Renee Mulcare and infielder Andrea Roeder also were on last year's squad, which went 23-22 overall and 14-14 in the East Region. CBC then lost to Spokane in a one-game playoff to determine the East's No. 4 seed for the NWAACC tournament.
Ochoa thinks this year's Hawks, though young on paper, have the ability to reach their postseason goals.
"If we can get through the East Region, with Wenatchee, Walla Walla and Spokane," Ochoa said, "and if we can get in the top four, we can do well in the NWAACCs."