Panthers split double-header with Mustangs: City honors original state softball champs between games

City College sophomore Marissa Rocha steps up to the plate March 17 at The Yard against San Joaquin Delta College. The Panthers split two games of a double-header Saturday. | Photo by Jason Pierce | jpierce.express@gmail.com

Nick Pecoraro

Sports Editor

Npecoraro.express@gmail.com

 

City softball split two games of a double-header Saturday against the visiting San Joaquin Delta Mustangs while honoring the 1988 state champion team in between games.

Game 1 of the double-header saw outstanding pitching performances from City’s Danielle Reyes and Delta’s Marissa Espinoza. In a game that went scoreless into the 10th inning, Espinoza went nine-plus innings with eight strikeouts and nine hits allowed, but Reyes outdueled her counterpart, throwing 10 shutout innings, giving up only four hits, no walks and striking out 20 Mustang hitters.

“The pitches decided to cooperate today,” said Reyes. “I had multiple pitches that were on today. My catcher (Jessica Prothero) was helping me out behind the plate, too.”

In the bottom of the 10th, City plated its only run with a string of infield hits. The Panthers loaded the bases with no outs when Mackenzie Duval slapped a base hit past the first baseman, scoring her sister Ashley Duval, who led off the inning with a single, for the game-winning run.

“It was so relieving not having to pitch another inning that’s not even on the scoreboard,” said Reyes, who has a run of three consecutive shutouts dating back to March 6. During that span, she has a current streak of 26 innings pitched without allowing an earned run.

“She’s the real deal,” said head coach Tim Kiernan of Reyes, who also has gained the awe of her teammates.

“She knows when to turn it on,” Ashley Duval said.

The win was No. 999 in Kiernan’s City College softball coaching career.

In between games, a dozen members of the 1988 team, including players and coaches, were celebrated for the 30th anniversary of the program’s first state championship in softball.

Under Kiernan, the 1988 team went 44-6 and has four players represented in the City College Athletics Hall of Fame: Charlene Manley, Shannon Padovan, Mariel Vaughn and Nicki Dennis.

“This team was really amazing,” said Vaughn. “We were a really well-disciplined team. It was just a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun winning.”

According to the City College athletic department, the Panthers’ run to the ’88 title was a historic one. Over four games in the state tournament, City did not allow a single run, a feat that had not been accomplished before or since.

“I don’t think that record will ever get broken,” said Kiernan. “We weren’t a dominating team, but defensively we were good. Charlene could put the ball where we wanted it. I think I was second for about three years in a row, and I got tired of that. It was nice to finally win it.”

Manley tossed four consecutive shutouts and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Members of the 1988 City College softball team visit The Yard for the 30th anniversary of the program’s first state title. The ’88 team still holds a state record for giving up zero runs throughout the tournament. | Photo by Jason Pierce | jpierce.express@gmail.com

“It’s pretty impressive considering 30 years have gone by and nobody else has done it,” said Manley of the team’s playoff run. “We had a good group of girls. It was pretty apparent in the state championship. Nobody scored a run against us. I pitched well, but I couldn’t have done that well without them behind me. It was a pretty special team.”

Another big reason for the Panthers’ defensive brilliance was Shannon Padovan, the ’88 team’s second baseman. In the title game against Palomar, Padovan threw out a runner at the plate to keep the scoreless streak alive. Padovan also had a key sacrifice bunt that set up the game-and championship-winning run.

The team boasted three All-Americans in Manley, Padovan and Dennis. Padovan recorded 18 sacrifices in 1988. Dennis set then-records 10 home runs and 16 doubles. Manley pitched a school record 44 complete games with 297 innings and had a microscopic 0.08 earned run average.

In Game 2 of Saturday’s double-header, City fell behind 4-0 heading into the sixth inning. Elizabeth Caffero’s eighth home run of the season cut the City deficit to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth.

Both Duval sisters made clutch defensive plays in the outfield to keep the Panthers within striking distance. In the second inning, Mackenzie made a leaping grab into the center field fence for the third out of the inning. In the fourth, with Delta threatening to score, Ashley fielded a single and threw a strike to home plate from left field to negate a run from scoring.

“That’s my sister,” said Mackenzie of Ashley, who collected hits in each of her last four at-bats. “It makes me really proud because she doesn’t always get that opportunity, but she proved herself today.”

The Panthers pushed across another run in the bottom of the seventh but fell short in the 4-3 defeat.

“We were in the situation we wanted to be in,” said Kiernan. “We had the right batters up. We just didn’t hit the right pitch.”

The Mustangs had won nine straight games entering Saturday. City (13-10, 3-4 Big 8) plays Tuesday at Folsom Lake College.

For more info on SCC softball, visit www.sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/sball/.