The City College softball team has one of the most prestigious reputations in the state of California. With 28 Conference championships and four state titles in the last 35 seasons, the Panthers are ready to renew that championship status in 2018.
Coach Tim Kiernan and company are off to a 6-6 start to the 2018 campaign. They are riding momentum from an offensive explosion in the team’s first home game Feb. 14 against Lassen College, in which they had 15 hits in a 13-2 victory.
Elizabeth Caffero had a day at the plate against Lassen. The freshman shortstop went 4-for-4, with three home runs, a double and nine RBIs, including a walk-off grand slam that sealed a mercy-rule victory in five innings.
“I was actually thinking line drives,” said Caffero, who has five homers over the first 12 games of the season and is quickly gaining the respect and awe from her teammates.
“She’s killing it,” said starting pitcher Danielle Reyes, who pointed out potential safety concerns for the City College baseball players, whose outfield border essentially shares a fence with the softball field. “Every time we do batting practice on the field, we have to tell the baseball team to watch out because she always hits so many over.”
Reyes surrendered a two-run homer in the first inning, but responded with four hitless frames and nine strikeouts the rest of the way, picking up her sixth win of the season. The freshman ace had a similar performance Feb. 6 at Reedley College when she gave up a first-inning hit before tossing six no-hit innings in a 3-0 shutout.
Reyes’ 48 strikeouts are among the Top 5 leaders in the state. Her early season showings have earned her the nickname “The Rock” from Kiernan, who says she is strong, and everyone can lean on her.
“She can dominate,” said Kiernan. “Dani is outstanding, and she throws to win.”
Freshmen have made numerous contributions early in the season for the Panthers. Caffero leads the team in triple crown categories with a .457 batting average, five home runs and 14 RBIs. Sisters Mackenzie and Ashley Duval roam the outfield while Morgan Silva-Conner owns a .360 batting average with two home runs of her own.
The success of the freshmen comes from the example of the team’s four sophomores. Marissa Rocha, who hit .396 with four homers and 68 RBIs last year, patrols first base. Speedy outfielder Sydney Craft, whose 39 stolen bases in 2017 were tied for the conference lead, typically leads off and sets the table for Kiernan’s lineup. Jessica Prothero catches the pitching staff, and outfielder Cecily Kaluza rounds out the sophomore leadership.
“They tell us right from wrong,” said freshman Taylor Wolf of her sophomore teammates. “They’re like our mama bears.”
Last season, the Panthers finished 23-15 with a 14-10 Big 8 mark before being eliminated in the first round of the postseason. City College owns four California state championships (1988, ’92 ’96 and ’04). City nearly added a fifth in 2016, reaching the state final before ultimately falling to Santiago Canyon College.
Kiernan, who has managed the City softball team since 1981, is on the cusp of a major milestone for any coach in any sport. At the start of the season, Kiernan stood just 14 wins shy of 1,000 career softball victories at City College.
“I think it’s absolutely a special milestone,” said Reyes. “It’s not every day that a coach gets 1,000 wins.”
He would become the only coach in any sport in school history to reach 1,000 career wins. But that is not the achievement that matters to Kiernan.
“I want to win the conference, go to the playoffs and win the state with this team,” said Kiernan. “We’ve had the toughest schedule of any team in the state. We’ve got four games this weekend, and then we start conference. That’s what it’s all about.”
City has a double-header on Feb. 17 against College of Siskiyous, beginning at noon. The first Big 8 Conference game is scheduled for Feb. 24, with two games at Cosumnes River College.
For more info on SCC softball, visit sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/sball.