Ace Henderson leads preseason No. 1 Sheldon
Editor's note: The ESPN RISE FAB 50 softball rankings are compiled by Garland Cooper and Mark Tennis, with contributions from Paul Muyskens. They will be released each Wednesday throughout the season.
Coming off a 2008 campaign in which Sacramento's Sheldon High School won its second straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title and ended No. 4 in the final FAB 50 rankings, coach Mary Jo Truesdale is blessed with the return of not only one of the best pitchers in the nation, Jolene Henderson, but also one of the best catchers, Lindsey Ziegenhirt.
Henderson, an EA SPORTS All-American and the CalHiSports.com State Junior of the Year, compiled a 30-1 mark in the circle with 22 shutouts, a 0.41 ERA and 326 strikeouts. She also hit .400 with 31 RBIs. The first-team all-state selection Ziegenhirt batted .446 with six homers and 47 RBIs.
"This is going to be just like last year when we were No. 1 for a few weeks," Henderson said. "It makes the games more fun. Everybody we play is trying harder to beat us. It makes the games bigger and more fun."
Ziegenhirt, who will continue to catch her friend at Cal next season, added that the No. 1 ranking shows a level of respect for Northern California usually reserved for Southern California.
"It's a great honor, but now everybody knows who we are," she said. "We can't surprise people anymore. NorCal is always supposed to be not special. We've proved that isn't true."
Concerns remain, however, for Truesdale, who has won more than 500 games. The Huskies lost two top hitters and top middle infielders in Alexa Rivera and Morgan Otto. Sheldon also faces one of the nation's most challenging schedules, which will be highlighted by a trip to Huntington Beach to play in the second annual Nike Faster to 1st tournament.
"That's a big target on our back, but it's also truly an honor," Truesdale said of the No. 1 ranking. "I had been a coach for many years and had never been ranked and now all this is happening. All I can say is that it is an honor."