Caitlyn Brooks

Caitlyn Brooks (Tim Berger Staff Photographer / February 28, 2014)

It was a banner year in 2013 for the local softball teams.

Leading the way was Bellarmine-Jefferson High, which won the program's first-ever CIF Southern Section championship after nailing down its fourth straight Santa Cruz League title.

Burbank also had a breakthrough season, going undefeated in the Pacific League and securing its first league crown in 26 years.

Burroughs and Providence also enjoyed their share of success, as both qualified for the postseason.

The good news this season for the quartet is that they all have a solid group of players returning and only the Bulldogs suffered a substantial hit from graduating seniors.

Here is a closer look how the teams are shaping up.

BELL-JEFF

The Guards made history in 2013, as they defeated Mary Star of the Sea, 8-4, to secure the Division VI championship at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. It was only the third CIF title at Bell-Jeff in any sport and only the second softball crown in city history (Burbank won a title in 1975).

Back from a team that went 23-10 are six starting seniors.

"To have six starters from a CIF championship team is a coach's dream," Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo said. "And most of those players have been playing since they were freshmen.

"The great thing is that they have a lot of experience and they have played in a lot of games. Just having the experience of winning a CIF championship is so important."

The Guards did lose a valuable player to graduation in Monique Landini, who is starting as a freshman at St. John's. Last season, Landini was the Division VI and Santa Cruz League Player of the Year after batting .410 and driving in 25 runs. She also had two home runs in the CIF championship game.

"You just don't just replace a player like Monique," Galindo said. "She is just a very special player."

Returning for Bell-Jeff is an All-CIF catcher in senior Samantha Casarez. Last season, she finished with a .412 batting average (42 for 102) and had 15 runs batted in and 31 runs scored.

Handling the Guards' pitching duties will be senior Mia Acosta, an All-CIF selection as a sophomore. Acosta compiled a 16-3 record with 102 strikeouts and had a 1.68 earned-run average in 116 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .192 off her. Acosta was also accomplished at the plate, hitting .446 (37 for 83) with 38 RBI, 24 runs, six doubles, four triples and five home runs.

Other all-league returners are senior Tiffany Galindo (.327 with 13 RBI and 27 runs), who will move from second to shortstop, and senior Sofia Palacios, (.391 with 26 RBI, 23 runs and four home runs) who will play first base. Moving over to second base will be senior Jessica Pereyra.

In the outfield will be senior all-league pick Priscilla Panizo (.352 with 22 RBI, 19 runs and two home runs). She will be joined by junior Alexis Lopez and sophomore Sarah Vargas.

In the quest for their fifth consecutive league title, Florencio Galindo said he expects a tough battle.

"We know we have a big target on our back and other teams want to knock us out," he said. "I think St. Anthony is going to be good; they made it to the CIF quarterfinals last year.

"But winning the league title is a pride thing for these girls. Some of them have never lost a league game, so they are going to be real focused."