Softball relishes national experience

05.30.2014 | By John Bechtle, for SanJacSports.com

Softball relishes national experience

HOUSTON - Fresh off the program’s first trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I National Championship Softball Tournament, San Jacinto College head coach Kelly Saenz is thrilled about both the present and the future.

“These sophomores had a two year-goal of reaching the national tournament, and we did that,” said Saenz of her 2014 bunch that made its way to the big dance for the first time since 2008.

“Overall, we had a great mix of talent and a great group of ladies who wanted to collectively do whatever it takes to win. In the end, we did that.”

San Jacinto College started the season strong before evening out some through the middle portion. A late-season run, culminating with a Region XIV championship game appearance, allowed the locals to advance to St. George, Utah, for the NJCAA'S championship tournament.

At nationals, San Jacinto College scored a pair of early wins before losing, 8-2, to eventual national champion and Region XIV nemesis Angelina College. A second loss later that evening, 12-4 to Southern Union State, ended San Jacinto College's title hopes and left the team with a 41-24 overall record.

Despite the tough final day of an otherwise terrific season, Saenz was pleased. Freshman pitcher Bridget Stein, second on the team in wins with 11, was lost to a wrist injury just before regionals.

With sophomore Karri Smith (22-10, 1 save) carrying the bulk of the load at regionals and again at nationals, San Jacinto College still excelled.

“Karri gave us everything she had, and the kids played their hearts out,” Saenz said. “We were a little short-handed not having Bridget for the postseason, but that’s athletics sometimes. I wouldn’t trade my group for anything.”

San Jacinto College also made a name for itself at nationals. Sophomore shortstop Jessie Rodriguez went 6 for 10 at the plate en route to being named the winner of both the Marucci Elite Hitter Award and Most Outstanding Offensive Player Award.

On paper, it appears Saenz must replace the bulk of her offensive production. Courtney Sams led the team in hitting at .382. Sarah Ragsdale was third in hitting at .371 and led the way in hits with 78 on the season. Loren Donaldson, one of the team’s top power threats, hit .323. Smith’s 22 wins in the circle paced the team by a wide margin. All four players are sophomores.

“I’m losing my entire outfield (Sams, Ragsdale, Lauren Von Boeckmann), a first baseman (Donaldson), a shortstop (Rodriguez) and our top pitcher (Smith),” said Saenz, who earlier this season won her 400th career game at the College.

However, Carah Nunez (.378) will lead a talented group of returnees next season along with Stein, who is on schedule in her recovery from injury. Brandy Potter also logged several innings in the circle this season.

“We still have a great group of freshmen coming back, and they all have to take that next step like this group of sophomores did this season. And we’ve got 10 recruits coming in. I’m excited about next season. Every year, you go into it with an eye on getting to nationals. It was a great experience this season. We want to do it again.”

 

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

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