Kylie Liu grew up playing baseball, becoming an all-star, before making a smooth transition to softball.
The junior infielder remains an all-star, with a swing learned from baseball coaches first and then refined by every coach she encountered afterward.
Her swing maximizes making solid contact and driving the ball. You’re not going to see many pop ups from her.
In Wednesday’s 12-1 victory over host Palo Alto, she gave a clinic.
Liu tripled, doubled twice and drove in four runs to help the Titans (5-0, 3-0) remain unbeaten in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic El Camino Division.
In her fourth at bat, she was hit by a pitch and was relucent to take her base. She still had some hitting to do.
“I definitely feel the baseball coaches helped,” Liu said. “My (older) brother was helpful too and then coaches I’ve had throughout.”
She was a 2017 Palo Alto Little League all-star, played third and showed some power, hitting a home run in the District 52 tournament.
She’s still playing third and handles the hot corner like it belonged to her. Playing on a traveling team during the summer helped mold her fielding prowess.
Gunn has always been known for its offense. This year, with a little bit of pitching and an improved defense, the Titans have allowed three runs total in five games, while scoring 73, an average of 14.6 runs a game.
“It’s cool to see the improvement on defense and the improvement of the underclassmen,” Liu said. “I definitely see more skill from the team and how well we’re doing as a team.”
First-year coach Alan Lundberg, who has been coaching for 20 years in Mountain View, 10 as a travel team coach, says the team has been teaching itself to play better defense.
“We use a lot of reps where they challenge each other on pop ups, to see how far they can range,” he said. “We didn’t have enough players for a JV team and I’m impressed with the level of unselfishness this team has shown the younger players. Everybody helps each other.”
Liu is 11-for-14, with six doubles, a triple and 18 RBIs, through her first five games. She was hitting .833 when last season was cancelled due to the pandemic. As a freshman, she was “held” to a .470 batting average. She has at least one hit in 28 of the 30 games in which she’s played for Gunn.
“She’s not just a good player, she’s a nice kid,” Lundberg said. “The whole team is nice.”
Team captain Maddie Ta, the only senior on the roster, pitched an eight-hitter over six innings for the win. She struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Palo Alto recorded six of its hits through the first three innings, though the Titans were able to keep the Vikings (1-2, 1-2) off the scoreboard.
Sophomore second baseman Brenna Birnbaum produced the defensive play of the game when, with the bases loaded in the second, she dove to her right to nab a sinking line drive just off the ground. She saved at least two runs.
Ingrid Lee drove in two runs for Gunn, while Lauren Li, Ruth Jaquette, who tripled, and Emma Sachs also drove in runs. Lee and Ashley Ng each had a pair of hits.
Victoria Soulodre singled in Paly’s run. Leticia Seeger, who had singled to lead off the sixth, scored on the play. Lauren Chung had two hits for the Vikings.
Gunn hosts Lynbrook on Friday afternoon while Palo Alto travels to Santa Clara for a game Friday.
Henry Bolte homered, doubled and drove in four runs as Palo Alto downed visiting Los Altos, 7-3, in a SCVAL De Anza Division opener Wednesday.
Ritter Amsbaugh and Tommy Hall each collected a pair of hits and drove in a run for the Vikings (7-2, 1-0), who travel to play Los Altos on Friday. Bowman Wingard also drove in a run.
Josh Donaker and three relievers completed the five-hitter. Donaker allowed a run on two hits in his four innings. He struck out six and walked five.
Paly took the leads for good with three runs in the third. Xavier Esquer reached base on an error and Zander Darby walked ahead of Bolte’s two-run double. Hall singled in Bolte, who added a two-run home run in the fourth.
Sudar Kartheepan singled home two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Menlo an 8-7 PAL victory over The King’s Academy on Friday.
TKA scored three in the top of the seventh to take a 7-6 edge.
Sophomore Colin Dhaliwal picked up the victory, throwing three innings. Starter Ryan Schnell allowed five hits, two walks and struck out three in four innings.
Sophomore Carson Cleage had a pair of hits and drove in three for Menlo (2-6) which plays at The King's Academy on Friday.
Also in the PAL, Tyler Wong had two hits and Mason Chetcuti drove in a run but Sacred Heart Prep fell to host Aragon, 9-2.
Calvin Kapral scored 27 points, on 11-of-19 shooting, and grabbed 14 rebounds in helping Woodside beat rival Sequoia, 49-30, in a Peninsula Athletic League game Wednesday.
Timmy Yee added nine points, six rebounds and three steals for the Wildcats.
Evan Burnett, Soren Sutaria, Mick Tamas and Nishan Rajavasireddy each won their singles matches as Menlo School beat host Harker, 7-0, in a West Bay Athletic League match Wednesday.
The Knights (2-0) host Pinewood (1-1) on Thursday.
Gunn beat visiting Sacred Heart Prep, 5-3, in a non-league match, with an added match.
The Titans swept the three double matches: Hugo Carlson and Adam Kahn, Michael Liang and Milan Rohatgi, and Suraj Sharma and Allen Guo.
Aarav Chandrasekar, Neal Chopra and Nolan Wingard each won singles matches for Sacred Heart Prep.
Genna Gibbons scored six goals and added three assists as Sacred Heart Prep beat host St. Francis, 15-5, in a WBAL match Wednesday.
Ellie Noto added three goals for the Gators (3-0), who host Mitty (2-0) on Friday. Mitty beat Menlo-Atherton, 12-8, Friday.
In the Skyline Division, Woodside beat Burlingame, 9-3, in a battle of unbeatens.
Gunn won at Los Altos, 18-0, using a balanced attack that included four goals and two assists from Kate Williams and Three goals and two assists from Irene Kim.
Sheerya Sethuraman added a goal and three assists for Gunn (2-3, 2-1), which hosts Mountain View on Saturday night.
Menlo-Atherton defeated host Woodside, 25-15, 25-19, 25-10, in a Peninsula Athletic League opener Wednesday.
M-A hosts Woodside on Thursday.