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Hungry For More | Whitney Softball Opens 2024 With High Hopes Hungry For More | Whitney Softball Opens 2024 With High Hopes
After Graduating Just Four Seniors From A Section Championship Team And CIF NorCal Semifinalist, Whitney Softball Is Cooking Up Some Lofty Goals PICTURED ABOVE:... Hungry For More | Whitney Softball Opens 2024 With High Hopes

After Graduating Just Four Seniors From A Section Championship Team And CIF NorCal Semifinalist, Whitney Softball Is Cooking Up Some Lofty Goals

PICTURED ABOVE: Whitney senior pitcher Hannah Duncan smiles during a Feb. 19 workout. (David Gershon photo)

It’s a late President’s Day afternoon and Fresno State-bound senior pitcher Hannah Duncan isn’t working on her rise ball. 

Today, she’s perfecting her buffalo chicken dip, while her catcher, Mya Flindt, and shortstop Alyssa Flindt are focused on chocolate-dipped desserts. That’s because later that day, the Whitney-Rocklin softball team with high expectations is building charcuterie boards along with team chemistry.

“We’re having our first team bonding tonight,” said Duncan. “We haven’t had that many practices with the weather. We’re an older team this year so a lot of us know what to expect. Our standards are set high; we know what we need to do.”

The Wildcats are making the most of the rainy preseason, which has only allowed them a handful of days on the dirt, but it’s not like this team is a group of strangers. 

Whitney graduated just four seniors from the team that took second in the Sierra Foothill League last season with a 10-5 league record and 22-8 overall mark. The Wildcats won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 title, defeating Vacaville 7-1. The team then went 1-1 in the CIF NorCal Division I tournament, defeating Archbishop Mitty-San Jose 9-3 before losing to eventual champion Hollister 3-2 in the semifinals.

“Even though we won the D2 section championship, a lot of us returners are hoping we can win the league this year,” said Mya Flindt, another member of the team’s senior core. “One of our main goals is to win the league and go further.”


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Mark Watson spent the past five seasons as Whintey’s assistant coach and is excited to take the helm from former head coach Mike Mello. “For the most part they take care of (motivation) themselves,” Watson said “After falling just a little short, dropping that one-run game to Hollister they want a chance to get back and finish out that run.”

The Wildcats have plenty of returning talent with several athletes committed to playing college ball. Watson has Duncan (Fresno State) in the circle, Mya Flindt (South Carolina) behind the dish, Tylie Kitchen (San Diego State) at third, Alyssa Flindt (Boise State) at shortstop, sophomore Brooklyn Steele at second, and Madilyn Novello (CSU San Marcos) at first.

Whitney High catcher Mya Flindt swings at a pitch during batting cage work
South Carolina-bound catcher Mya Flindt is one of three four-year varsity players on the Wildcats.

Duncan was named the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Class of 2024 Player of the Year by MaxPreps last season, and the Wildcats’ ace finished her junior campaign with 198 strikeouts. Watson says over the past two years Duncan has become a much more complete pitcher. “She’s strong in the head and doesn’t waver too much,” he said. “She’s got an excellent changeup and her rise ball is equally as good.”

“Hannah is not scared,” said Mya Flindt. “If a coach calls for a pitch on a good batter, she’s not afraid to throw it. She’ll go for it and throw it the hardest and best she can.”

It doesn’t hurt that the players behind Duncan combined for a .950 fielding percentage last season. “I love how Tylie plays third base, and how loud she is on the field,” said Duncan. “When I’m struggling, she talks me up or calls time to calm me down. It’s nice pitching with a loud infield. They fire me up to do better.”

While Kitchen’s teammates love her voice on the field, her bat makes noise too with an impressive .436 batting average and seven home runs last season. “Tylie, is just a stud,” said Alyssa Flindt. “Last year she did good, but this year she wants everything, like the highest batting average, the most home runs – everything. She did great last year, but I can see her going even further.”

The other Wildcat infielders, Novello, Steele, Alyssa and Mya Flindt, also succeeded at the plate, each hitting over .300 last season with a combined 107 hits, 69 RBI, and 24 extra-base hits. 

Whitney High first baseman Tylie Kitchen runs to first base
Tylie Kitchen roads first base during the 2023 Livermore Stampede tournament. (Ben Enos photo)

Wildcats’ center fielder Sarah O’Dea graduated last year, and Watson says there are two to three players that he’ll be trying out in the position, but the corners are set. “We’ve got Bailey Reynolds returning to start in right field. She’s a strong athlete, really growing with her confidence and starting to come into her own,” he said. “And senior Bryanna Decker (University of Minnesota Crookston) will be in left. She’s got good speed, and is a talented left-handed hitter.”

Seniors and four-year varsity starters Duncan, Novello, and Mya Flindt have grown up together on and off the field. “I’d say we’re pretty close,” said Mya Flindt. “I’ve known Hannah since preschool and Madi since elementary school. With all of us being seniors, it’s pretty cool that we are going through our lasts when we went through our firsts together.”

“We have a really strong bond from playing together for four years,” Duncan said. “We’re taking leadership positions. Plus, they’re really fun to hang out with.”

Despite the lack of early field time due to the weather, the rain hasn’t dampened the team’s spirit. 

“We have a great group of leaders,” said Watson. “Mya, Hannah, and Madi are all leaders. They’ve bought in and they’ve made it clear to the other players that they’re a team on and off the field to make this as big a success as they can.”

Whitney High softball infielder Madilyn Novello catches a pop fly during an indoor practice.
Madilyn Novello hauls in a pop fly during a Feb. 19 indoor practice in Roseville. (David Gershon photo)

After an indoor practice on President’s Day, players swapped bats and balls for charcuterie boards with each player creating a board of goodies to be shared with teammates be it sweet or savory. 

“Everyone is getting to know each other a lot more, and as the days go on we’ll be calling each other sisters,” Alyssa said. “Girls are girls, we all have our drama. We just have to keep the drama and attitudes off the field and keep the positive energy on the field.” 

The team tries to do 5-10 bonding events each season, and Watson says the players have taken the reins on planning. “We want them to use some time to get to know each other and build relationships off the field to better their relationships on the field,” Watson said. 

“Their chemistry is number one,” the coach continued. “There’s just a lot of talent on the field, and they understand the competition for playing positions. They embrace that and realize they’re competing with their sisters, and not against each other.”

While Watson uses the term “sisters” figuratively, he says Mya and Alyssa Flindt are the third set of biological sisters playing together in the Wildcats program since he started coaching at Whitney in the junior varsity program nine years ago.

“Mya is a beast. She’s 5-foot-9 and a great catcher with good pop and a strong arm,” Watson said. “Alyssa also has good pop with the bat and speed. Alyssa could, and probably has, played eight or nine different positions in a tournament, maybe even in a game. She’s just that kind of teammate. She’ll clean up, rake the field, take reps, catch for pitchers.”

Alyssa Flindt, nicknamed Peanut, said it’s a true story, she did play all nine field positions in a single game. “My travel ball coach just wanted to try it,” Alyssa said. “It was pretty fun to see the game from every position.” Despite the nickname, Peanut has put up big numbers for the Wildcats, and Watson thinks she’ll continue in her junior year. As a sophomore on varsity last season, Alyssa had a .352 batting average with 32 hits, 24 RBI, and 11 extra-base hits, including three home runs.

Whitney HIgh softball shortstop Alyssa Flindt tags out a San Ramon Valley baserunner sliding into second base during a 2023 game.
Alyssa Flindt applies a tag at second base during a 2023 Livermore Stampede game against San Ramon Valley. (Ben Enos photo)

“She holds down the infield so well,’ Mya said of her younger sister. “Playing with Alyssa has been one of the best experiences, it’s brought us closer the past couple of years, especially with me leaving for college in the summer. She has my back and I have hers. She’s a great shortstop.”

Not to be outdone, Mya capped the 2023 season with a .386 batting average that included 32 hits, 36 RBI, and seven home runs. 

“It’s been amazing playing with (Mya), especially this year. We’re so close now, if it wasn’t for softball, we’d probably still be arguing,” Alyssa said with a laugh. “She’s stepping up for the team now that she’s a senior. Mya takes control and gets people going and gets them doing what needs to be done.”

Weather permitting, Whitney will get its 2024 season started on the road at Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove on March 4 in a matchup of the No. 2 and 3 preseason teams in the section according to MaxPreps. Sierra Foothill League play begins on March 12 with a visit from Granite Bay.

“We’re all proud of what we did last year, but this year we’re aiming higher,” said Duncan. “We want more wins in league, we want a NorCal championship. Our standards are high and we know what to do.”

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Kelli Bryson

Kelli Bryson is a freelance writer who was a former journalist for Bay Area News Group.

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