Junior first baseman Lily Young, seen here preparing to make a play in the Wildcats' game with Westmont High on March 7, is part of a deep and talented Los Gatos squad. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Randy Frey has a problem-a good problem. 

Frey, who is in his 12th season coaching the Los Gatos High girls softball team, has inherited a roster that is deeper than any other in his time running the program. 

“I’ve never been in a position like this before where I literally have 15 girls who can pretty much start on most varsity teams in the (Santa Clara) valley,” he said. “I can only play 10 (at a time) with a DP (designated player) and a flex.”

The challenge becomes figuring out how to deploy these 15 girls most effectively.

“I try to use my bench and get people in certain situations, so it’s a good problem to have that much talent on this team,” he said. “Typically, I’m struggling to find nine (quality players) in the starting lineup, and hope no one gets sick or hurt. But now, if someone gets sick or hurt, you don’t lose a beat.”

The Wildcats started the season with five consecutive victories before dropping their last two games by identical 3-2 scores to Hillsdale High in the championship game of the Watsonville Tournament on March 16 and to Santa Teresa High two days later. 

Freshman sensation Ava Norquist had three hits in the Hillsdale game, but her biggest impact has been in the circle. Los Gatos graduated ace Anna Bean and needed another capable pitcher to come in and take the reins. Norquist has been downright sensational, compiling a 4-0 record and 1.30 ERA entering this week’s play. 

In a 9-0 win over Westmont High on March 7, Norquist allowed just two hits over six innings while striking out 11 and walking none. Frey knew Norquist was enrolling at Los Gatos, but he had never seen her play before the team’s first practice. 

“I knew she was good but didn’t know how good. She’s the real deal,” Frey said. “She’s a power pitcher and has an assortment of good pitches: a nice changeup—so you can’t just sit on her fastball; an excellent drop ball; a rise and screw as well.”

Sophomore standout Olivia Sickels has been the team’s most potent hitter thus far, entering this week’s action with a .684 on-base percentage and .625 batting average, which ranks 11th and 15th, respectively, in the Central Coast Section among qualified individuals. 

In the Westmont contest, Sickels had three hits and four RBI, including an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning. Sickels, who was a single away from hitting for the cycle, plays in the infield and outfield. Her 1.000 slugging percentage and 1.684 OPS are clear indicators of her hitting prowess.

“Olivia has been tearing the cover off the ball,” Frey said. 

The Wildcats return the majority of their key infielders from last season, including first baseman Lily Young, junior second baseman Clare Torres, sophomore shortstop Grace Tucker, and junior catcher Annika Norquist, Ana’s older sister. 

Senior Alexa Musser and junior Addie Sorto will switch off at third base and left field. Tucker earned all-Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division honors last season. One of the team’s early-season highlights include a 3-2, eight-inning win over Valley Christian on March 12. 

Musser started the bottom of the eighth inning on second base via the international tiebreaker rule. With the team’s 3-4-5 hitters coming up, Frey elected not to bunt the runner over, reasoning he had a better opportunity to get the run home by letting some of his team’s best hitters swing away. 

Frey’s thinking proved spot on, as Annika Norquist crushed a double on the first pitch she saw for the walk-off victory. Norquist finished 2-for-4, both doubles. Frey said he’s never had a sister battery, which has made for a unique situation. 

Frey has given complete control to Annika to call the pitches when Ava is pitching, a testament to the Norquists’ chemistry. Before the season started, Annika asked Frey if she could call her sister’s pitches, noting she catches all of Ava’s private lessons. 

“Starting with the scrimmages, I said to Annika, ‘You go ahead and call them,’” Frey said.

Not only have things worked out fine, but Frey has also been able to enjoy some light moments as a result of the situation. Los Gatos had a big lead in the Westmont game, which means Frey was able to take some of his starters like Annika out of the game early.

Ava still pitched six innings, however, and once Annika was taken out of the game, Frey’s initial plan was to have Annika sit at his usual spot at the edge of the dugout to call pitches. But after a brief discussion with the home plate umpire, Frey sat in his usual spot but had Annika right beside him relaying what pitches to call. 

“I had Annika helping me out and telling me what to call,” Frey said. “It was kind of fun.”

Even though Ava Norquist will pitch the majority of the innings this season, Los Gatos has capable arms in Sophia Krish and Ria Sharma. They combined to go five innings in the Hillsdale game, allowing zero earned runs. Junior twins Lily and Robyn Young are returners coming off a solid 2023 campaign, while sophomores Tessa Lilienstein and Kaylee Cross have made an immediate impact after playing on the junior varsity squad as freshmen. 

Frey said he has high hopes for senior Austen Zelmer, who won’t be able to play until March 30 because she transferred in from Valley Christian. Seniors Sydney Bacheller and Eva Fein round out the roster.

“I hate to say it—I don’t even know if it’s possible to have too much talent, but I’m blessed with the roster this year that I’m able to move some pieces around,” Frey said. “I think this year we have to be one of the (league) favorites along with Mountain View. We always want to win the league.”

The Wildcats have finished either first or second in the De Anza Division in each of the previous six seasons. Their lone CCS title came in 1993, but they did earn a berth into the Open Division in 2022. 

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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