By DAN GOLDMAN
Don't look now, but a ray of sunshine has finally broken through the dark cloud that's been hanging over the Summerville High School softball program for the past few years.
Ever since 1998's surprising run to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals, Summerville softballers have struggled to remain afloat in the Mother Lode League, due in no small part to the usurping of players by club volleyball and soccer.
But after bottoming out in 2002 with a sixth-place finish in the MLL and an overall record of 5-20, Summerville has begun to turn its fortunes around in the early portion of this season, thanks largely to the efforts of sophomore starting pitcher Jessica Aubrey, The Union Democrat's Athlete of the Week.
Aubrey, who earned her varsity stripes as a freshman last season, capped an impressive preseason on Saturday by tossing the first no-hitter of her career in a 6-1 win over North Hills Christian of Vallejo in the Modesto Christian Tournament.
"I think that was the best game I've thrown," said Aubrey, who struck out nine, walked two and allowed only an unearned run in the first inning. "I didn't have to throw that many trick pitches, which I think was the main reason I was so consistent."
The no-hitter came on the heels of a complete-game, 11-strikeout performance in Summerville's 7-3 win over Fresno Christian on Friday, giving the Bears their first two-game winning streak since stringing together back-to-back victories in last year's Modesto Christian Tournament.
Aubrey (and the Bears) head into Friday's MLL opener at Linden with a record of 2-3 to go along with a 1.50 earned run average and an average of eight strikeouts per game numbers good enough to give the Bears hope.
"As a team, we're going to go as far as Jessica takes us," Summerville coach Ben Watson said. "Like (assistant coach) Ray Emerald said the other other day: She's going to keep us in all the games; it's just a matter of playing well behind her."