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Optimism abounds for Costa Mesa softball

SOFTBALL: Franco, a first-year coach, excited about upcoming season for Mustangs, who return key starters Mitani, Pulaski.

March 03, 2008|By Matt Szabo

Marcus Franco isn’t bashful about stating a goal for the Costa Mesa High softball team.

“The goal is to win a section championship,” the first-year coach said.

Franco has a reason for optimism. The Mustangs have 37 girls out playing softball this year, 25 on the junior varsity and 12 on the varsity. Last year, he said, there were 11 in the whole program.

Franco, 40 and a math teacher at Mesa, takes over for Sharon Uhl, who was the school’s softball coach three of the past four years. Lori Esperza was the coach in 2006.

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“The girls and families have been really supportive,” Franco said. “I have a lot of respect for Sharon. She did a wonderful job. She relates to kids. I’m not naive. I’m pretty fortunate to have a few girls who she’s coached pretty well.”

Franco, who assisted Jim Kiefer with the Costa Mesa baseball team last year, said he wanted to be back in a head coaching spot. That’s where he was from 2001 through 2003, when he coached baseball at Armijo High in Fairfield.

He takes over a team that went 13-8 last year, and 4-5 in the Orange Coast League. The Mustangs had their ups and downs, but they were the only team to beat cross-town rival Estancia in league,

Costa Mesa also returns a lot, including its starting battery of sophomore pitcher Kira Mitani and senior catcher Emily Pulaski, both first-team All-Orange Coast League selections a year ago.

Mitani was 9-9 with a 4.01 earned-run average in 2007, while Pulaski batted .561 with 29 RBIs, four home runs and eight doubles.

Franco said he looks forward to another solid year out of Pulaski.

“She’s right up there with any girl I’ve seen play at the high school level,” Franco said. “She has great potential at the Division I level. She’s a wonderful leader and has excellent mechanics.”

Mitani has also had a strong start to the season. She’s 2-1, including hurling three innings of no-hit ball in the Mustangs’ season-opening 17-0 win over Bolsa Grande on Friday.

She followed that up Saturday by striking out 10 in five innings, and allowing two hits as Costa Mesa beat Century, 11-1, to open its host tournament.

“It’s nice having a returning battery, especially in a sport that is pitching dominated,” Franco said.

Two of the Mustangs’ top three hitters last year graduated, shortstop Danielle Morton and second baseman Christy Gregory. But Mesa also has some returning bats.

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