By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
By performing best against playoff teams and larger schools, St. Vincent de Paul catcher Ursyla Baumgarten distinguished herself from the rest of the Redwood Empire’s small-school softball players. Her clutch play in big games and work managing the Mustangs’ young pitching staff during a North Coast Section championship run make her The Press Democrat’s small-school softball player of the year.
Baumgarten was not selected Most Valuable Player of the North Central League II, an honor based solely on play in league games. But her season-long body of work shows a player who stepped up in the playoffs and nonleague contests against Division 2, 3 and 4 schools. (The Mustangs play in Division 5.)
Though the Mustangs lost three early contests against Division 2 schools Montgomery, Windsor and Ukiah, Baumgarten went a combined 6-for-12. In two losses to Clear Lake ace Emily Wingler, who compiled an 18-2 record as a senior, Baumgarten was 3-for-6 with two doubles and two runs scored.
With the “large schools, I know a bunch of different people on the team,” said Baumgarten, who plays summer and fall ball with the Easton Elite. The Petaluma-based club features most of Sonoma County’s top large-school softball talent.
“It’s fun … I really get the feeling that I don’t have anything to lose on the field,” Baumgarten said of playing against the larger schools.
Baumgarten also shined in the NCS Div. 5 playoffs. In the Mustangs’ 5-0 win over Head-Royce, she scored twice, drove in two runs and caught a shutout by Hayley Olson. In the second round, an 11-1 five-inning win over Redwood Christian, the catcher was 1-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs as Hannah Sarlatte threw a two-hitter.
In the NCS championship win over College Prep, Baumgarten again went 1-for-3, astutely scoring a run by taking advantage of a Cougars’ miscue, as Olson threw another shutout. The game’s lone hit came on the final play of the game, when the Oakland school’s Lila Jensen was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.
St. Vincent coach Don Jensen credits Baumgarten’s maturity and familiarity with her pitching staff with much of the Mustangs’ success.
“Ursyla basically ran the team from the catcher’s position,” he said. Baumgarten, a natural middle infielder who’s been playing travel ball since age 10, took up catching as a freshman because Jensen had a void to fill.
“If that’s what the team needs, I’ll be there for them,” she said.
Baumgarten’s work in the batter’s box and behind the plate paid unexpected dividends this spring when she was named to Cal-Hi Sports’ all-state team for small-school softball. Though many were nominated, she was the only Empire athlete, large school or small school, to receive the honor. It came as a surprise to Baumgarten.
“I didn’t even know I was nominated until my mom told me (I won),” she said. “I was even looking at the list of nominees they showed me, and I’ve played with a lot of the girls. I was shocked.”
Baumgarten, who just began her junior year at St. Vincent, said she spent her freshman year getting a feel for catching because “it was a totally new dynamic for me.”
This spring, “I knew all the girls on my team and was more comfortable and more relaxed. It was a lot more fun,” she said.
With Baumgarten and Olson entering their junior years, Sarlatte starting her sophomore year and NCL II MVP Morgan Selmi around for another season, the Mustangs should be a force again next spring.
“We only lost three seniors” this summer, Baumgarten said. “We have some younger girls who are (experienced players) coming into St. Vincent, which makes me even more excited.”
Eric Wittmershaus is The Press Democrat’s online sports editor. You can reach him at 521-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012 ALL-EMPIRE SMALL-SCHOOL SOFTBALL TEAM
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Ursyla Baumgarten, St. Vincent de Paul, C, sophomore
Savannah Dekeyser, Clear Lake, OF, senior
Elise McAllister, Rincon Valley Christian, P, senior
Hayley Olson, St. Vincent, P/OF, sophomore
Morgan Selmi, St. Vincent, 2B/SS, junior
Taylor Spaulding, Cloverdale, P/CF, senior
Vanessa Tullos, Clear Lake, 3B, senior
Hannah Upton, St. Vincent, 3B/OF, junior
Lily Waggoner, Calistoga, RF/3B/SS, sophomore
Emily Wingler, Clear Lake, P, senior
Coree Alexander, Clear Lake, SS, senior
Sabrina Lyon, Kelseyville, P, senior
Kayla Marshall, St. Vincent, LF/3B, senior
Kim Mitchell, Cloverdale, C, junior
Adrina Miller, Lower Lake, CF, junior
Kelcie Reynolds, Clear Lake, C, sophomore
Morgan Robinson, Cloverdale, 1B, junior
Hannah Sarlatte, St. Vincent, P/1B/OF, freshman
Heather White, Clear Lake, INF, senior
Shannon Carroll, St. Vincent, OF, senior
Kat Edmonds, Upper Lake, P/3B/2B, senior
Sophie Gaoiran, Rincon Valley Christian, 3B, senior
Lindsay Harjak, Cloverdale, CF/C, senior
Danielle Martin, Calistoga, C/3B/1B, sophomore
Matti Matheson, Laytonville, C/2B, senior
Lexi Monhoff, Calistoga, CF/2B/C, sophomore
Zoe Porter, Rincon Valley Christian, Util., senior
Morgan Psalmonds, Clear Lake, INF, junior
COACH OF THE YEAR
Don Jensen, St. Vincent