Will Hart Softball's Chemistry and Talent Lead to a Title?
May, 2009 - Issue #55
Before they wrote their names in cursive on UCLA and Oklahoma softball scholarships, before they became an All-California catcher/pitcher combo, even before they were old enough for slumber parties, Hart High's Destiny Rodino and Jessica Shults were just a pair of Padres.

Seniors now at Hart, they've been teammates since their parents first bought them gloves.

Their ages were 6 or 7, depending on whose memory you trust, the team was the Padres and both agree they became best buds, basically by the time they finished introducing themselves.

"After that, we were always on the same team," Rodino says. "When we signed up, we said we were sisters. I changed my last name for softball. She changed her name for basketball season."

Their fathers coached them. Then their fathers coached a bunch of their future teammates.

Devon Lindvall, Melissa Brown, Heather Stiglich, Emily Henry and Allison Lewis joined the duo on their first club team. While Rodino was eventually forced to join a different squad because of an earlier birthday than the others, the seven grew up together as best friends on and off the field.

Now you know why Hart's dugout gets so noisy during at-bats.

Now you know why it feels like the Indians have been teammates their whole lives.

They are a pack of great pals, oozing with both chemistry and now, extra motivation as a team which features nine seniors playing this season not only for a perfect ending to their high school careers as Indians, but a perfect ending to a lifelong career as a softball family.

"This is my last chance to play with my best friends," says Shults, Hart's three-time-and-counting All-CIF starting catcher. "We all know each other so well. That makes this a real special year."

Says Rodino: "Of course, I always want to win but this year, it really just feels bigger."

Hart's group has already produced many nothing-to-sneeze-at high school resumes.

As freshmen in 2006, they knocked defending CIF champion Royal out of the first round of the playoffs. Rodino hurled the complete game shutout. As sophomores the following season, they kicked it up a few notches, reaching the CIF-Southern Section Division I title game. Then last year, they were co-Foothill League champions, sharing the crown with their rivals from Valencia.

They've always been the young up-and-comers nudging their way toward the top. Now, with no more next year to look forward to, it would seem this is their time to finally finish off the climb.

"Our goal," says Hart coach Steve Calendo, "is just to work as hard as we can in every practice and every game. We don't mention titles. We just want to work and live up to our full potential."

ESPN Rise, for one, has wagered heavily on the strength of that potential.

The publication ranked Hart No. 14 in the United States coming into the season. After a 9-0 start to the year (Hart entered league play with a 12-2 record), Hart moved to as high as the fifth spot.

Lofty, yes, but really, can you blame them?

To begin, there's Rodino, a four-year starter at the game's most important position, a pitcher with a career record of 55-17 and 0.74 ERA heading into the season. Then, there's the girl calling the pitches and driving in Rodino's insurance runs. Shults entered the season as a .404 career hitter with 18 home runs. As a senior, she's been better, hitting .528 through her team's first 14 games.

"Jessica is just an incredible softball player," Calendo says. "And she's a great leader.Over the next four years [at Oklahoma], you're going to hear some great things. She's not even done yet."

Shults and Rodino won't be the only Indians moving to the next level.

Brown will play shortstop at Tennessee, Lindvall will join Rodino on the UCLA Bruins and Henry has signed at Chico State, giving the Indians at least five future college softball players.

Hart not only has chemistry on its side, it has talent. Plus - this season - great timing.

Valencia, which has dominated the Foothill League by winning eight consecutive league championships and back-to-back Division I titles, is finally getting younger. Jordan Taylor, the Vikings' pitcher who went on to become one of the greatest California has ever seen, is the Big 10 Conference's problem now. She's at Michigan. Jessica Spigner, who followed in Taylor's footsteps last season, earning National Player of the Year honors, is a freshman at Tennessee.

Everything, it appears, is set up for a storybook finish many years in the making.

"It's not going to be easy," Shults says. "Valencia is still a great team. But we definitely want to get a title this year. We've been doing it together since we were little kids. It'd be a great
- What is the sum of 8 + 6?
This is a required value
to protect against spam
community events