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Avey's Last Hurrah Senior Ace Wants Playoffs In Her Final Prep Season
The last time Riverbank High's varsity softball team qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, Bruin senior ace, Carlye Avey, was in the eighth grade.

Avey is pulling no punches when it comes to her postseason goal in her final season on the prep mound.

"I definitely want to make it to playoffs," Avey said at a recent practice. "It's my senior year and I really want the team to be successful.

"I feel like we can do a lot this year as a team because we have a lot of talent."

A lot of that talent centers around the Lady Bruins' lanky fair-haired hurler, who has already made a verbal commitment to play softball at Simpson University in Redding on a partial scholarship.

Avey's command on the hill has propelled Riverbank to a 7-2 start to the season, Riverbank's best start in over six years (They were 6-3 to start the 2006-07 playoff qualifying season).

"I love Carlye to death, and to think about this being her last year makes it very sad for me," Riverbank coach Cassi Ross said. "She is a very special lady, and more than anything I would like to see her make it to the playoffs."

Avey has allowed just 11 earned runs in over 46 innings of work this season. She's downed 49 hitters via strikes and as of Friday, had walked just three batters. It may be what you would expect from a four-year varsity ace, but Avey's game has improved dramatically each season, and even more so in 2011 considering a new adage to the prep rules.

The high school mound has been moved from 40 to 43 feet from the plate this year, matching the same distance Avey is accustomed to in a highly successful career with the R&R Gold competitive softball team she pitches for in the off-season.

Coach Ross said Avey pitches even better from this distance, and her sterling start to the year is evidence to that fact.

Avey can also hit well from that distance, and sported a sharp .389 average (seven hits in 18 at bats) with two doubles at the plate as of Friday. She struck out 11 hitters in a 5-1 win over Turlock Christian on Friday, and saw some big support from a talented lineup of hitters.

As of Friday morning, Bruin leadoff and senior shortstop Aimee Lopez leads all hitters with 12 hits, 11 runs, 11 RBIs, a .593 on-base percentage, 13 stolen bases and a team second .462 batting average this season.

Her sure-handed junior sister, catcher Amanda Lopez, has belted nine RBIs, nine hits and nine runs with a .450 average from her No. 3 spot in the order.

Riverbank's No. 5 hitter, Amy McDonald (.571), has 12 hits and four doubles in her sophomore season. McDonald plays second base, and rounds out the Bruin infield with junior No. 6 hitter Cassandra Gilbert (six runs) at first base and No. 2 spot freshman at third, Brittney Cody (11 runs, triple, five stolen bases).

The Bruin outfield isn't set in stone, but should see strong-armed sophomore Victoria Sandoval in right and speedy freshman Chloe Arnold in center.

Riverbank sports a .402 combined average at the plate this season with an impressive .205 batting average from opposing hitters. If those marks can continue, the Bruins should see repeated success this year, even against top Trans-Valley League teams.

But it won't be easy.

Programs in the TVL sport a combined record of 31-16 this preseason, with Ripon, Hilmar and Hughson landing just one loss apiece while returning champ and league favorite, Escalon, is 3-3 against a gauntlet of tough high division opponents. Escalon, Hughson and Hilmar finished first, second and third respectively in last year's SJS Division V playoffs.

Riverbank was just 6-9 in TVL action last year, but a big preseason and some terrific hitting has given the team hope for playoff life in 2011.

"The team has great potential," Coach Ross said. "They have all the tools needed to have a successful season.

"If they bring their abilities and passion to the field on game days we will be very good."