All-Empire large school softball: Pumas’ Brittney Veler is the ‘real deal’


When you bat .628 and hoover up ground balls like dust bunnies at shortstop, all for a first-place team, you’re bound to stockpile quite a few highlights. But one



moment in particular defines Brittney Veler and her ability on the softball field.

Playing against Analy on March 19, the Maria Carrillo senior hit a home run. That wasn’t the highlight. It came in her next at-bat. Analy coach Nick Houtz decided he had seen enough of Veler after the dinger and directed his pitcher to walk her. But one of the pitches wasn’t far enough outside. It was a ball, to be sure, but a little too close to Veler’s wheelhouse.

“Without stepping out of the box, she reached out and hit a triple,” Houtz said.

Houtz couldn’t feel too bad about it, because Veler spent most of the season tormenting opponents. In addition to that supernatural batting average, she stole 28 bases and scored 46 runs for the North Bay League champion Pumas. She hit six home runs, too, though as a leadoff batter she didn’t always have runners to drive in.

“And not to mention, she’s a hell of a defensive player, too,” Houtz added. “She’s the real deal.”

For all of that, Veler is our Large School Softball Player of the Year.

Not that it was an easy decision. Veler’s teammate, senior pitcher Robin Johnson, also was a huge part of Maria Carrillo’s success, and Petaluma slugger Joelle Krist had equally staggering offensive numbers. But Veler was just a little more complete, which explains why she is headed to Providence College on a softball scholarship this fall.

While she was probably the best shortstop in the Empire last season, the Friars will try her out in center field – which is fine with Veler.

“I love the grass,” she said. “I’m definitely a natural outfielder. My dad (Carrillo assistant coach Jim Veler) was an outfielder, and he trained me there all my life. I was playing for a travel ball team in Southern California (American Pastime), and the coach told me I have the best outfield eye he’d seen, like off the bat.”

With the Pumas losing eight seniors from the previous year, Veler knew she’d have to do more than hit and field to lead her team.

It started before the season began, when she pulled Johnson aside and suggested they institute a player-led conditioning program. Four days a week for four weeks, the two seniors pushed their teammates like cross-fit instructors. Mondays and Wednesdays were conditioning days – run a mile, do some calisthenics. Tuesdays and Thursdays were weightlifting days, which really surprised the football team at first. Veler and Johnson charted individual progress.

“It was optional, but we wanted to make it clear that if you go to these workouts, you will get better and stronger,” Veler said. “We pulled the ropes on that, and I think it worked out. It showed some girls were not ready for the varsity level, which is fine.”

Veler’s other mission was building a better relationship between the varsity and JV softball squads at Maria Carrillo. She had sensed a chill between the two groups, and felt the varsity players could be more nurturing, so she set up cross-class team-building exercises.

“I wanted to leave with the feeling that we were one organization, not two separate teams,” Veler said. “The JV team is supposed to be a filter to varsity. We got to bond with them, got to know the freshmen, and it was just a great feeling. I also realized that maybe I have a passion after softball to coach.”

First, though, a little Big East diamond action for Brittney Veler.

Phil Barber can be reached at


Brittney Veler, Maria Carrillo, senior

Kayla Douglas, SS, Cardinal Newman, senior
Brie Gerhardt, SS, Petaluma, junior
Robin Johnson, P, Maria Carrillo, senior
Joelle Krist, 1B/3B, Petaluma, junior
Sara Langdon, OF, Casa Grande, senior
Taylor Matthews, C, Santa Rosa, senior
Kaylah Pardini, 3B, Ukiah, sophomore
Samantha Richards, 2B, Sonoma Valley, senior
Haley Sheridan, C, Analy, senior

Cailyn Callison, SS/P, Piner, junior
Hanna Chew, C, Maria Carrillo, sophomore
Briana Doane, SS, Santa Rosa, senior
Alina Goodrum, OF, Analy, senior
Shay Mendoza, INF, Windsor, freshman
Haley Millerick, C/IF, El Molino, junior
Johanna Peelen, P/DH, Santa Rosa, junior
Amber Rose, OF, Sonoma Valley, senior
Brittaney Scardina, P, Rancho Cotate, freshman

Taylor Christy, P, Analy, junior
Taylor Del Santo, OF, Rancho Cotate, freshman
Vickie Espinoza, 1B/DH, Rancho Cotate, sophomore
Alexus Hale, OF, Casa Grande, junior
Randi McMahan, OF, Maria Carrillo, junior
Lisa Nadell, 3B, Casa Grande, junior
Emily O’Keefe, P, Petaluma, freshman
Miranda Swanson, C, Petaluma, junior
Denia Vera, P/1B, Santa Rosa, senior

Kurt Jastrow, Petaluma

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