The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Photo credit: Nick Shockey / nshockey.express@gmail.com
A letter from the editor
February 6, 2024

A season of champions; reflections of a record softball season and a look to the future

%28left+to+right%29+City+College+Morgan+Conner+%2825%29%2C+Danielle+Reyes+%284%29%2C+Karmyn+Rivera+%282%29%2C+Liz+Caffero+%2822%29%2C+Breanna+Eastlick+%289%29%2C+Marah+Range+%2816%29%2C+and+Mackenzie+Duval+%285%29+before+practice+at+The+Yard+at+City+College+April+29.++Photo+by+Sara+Nevis+%7C+Staff+Photographer+%7C+snevis.express%40gmail.com
(left to right) City College Morgan Conner (25), Danielle Reyes (4), Karmyn Rivera (2), Liz Caffero (22), Breanna Eastlick (9), Marah Range (16), and Mackenzie Duval (5) before practice at The Yard at City College April 29. Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Shannon Westberg | Staff Writer | [email protected]

The 2019 City College softball team became Big 8 Conference co-champions April 23 when they defeated Diablo Valley college 12-4 in the final game of the regular season as Tim Kiernan finishes his 37-year career as head coach of the team.

The team won both rounds of the NorCal Regional Championships and finished fifth in the CCCAA State Championships. Twelve Panther players were named to or received honorable mentions for the All-NorCal and All-Big 8 Conference teams.

Sophomore players who are moving on from City College took some time to reflect on the season and what comes next.   

“The coaches really pushed us every day in practice,” said pitcher and team captain Danielle Reyes. “We wanted to live up to their expectations because we know we are a talented team.”  

Influenced by her older sister, Reyes recalled that she discovered softball at a very young age. “I became a pitcher because my sister was a catcher,” said Reyes. “I wanted to one-up her. I wanted to be the center of attention.”  

After years of playing travel and high school softball, Reyes came to City College because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life and she didn’t want to limit her options.

“I took the back route, and it allowed me to explore my future and explore the options,” she said.    

City College softball Head Coach Tim Kiernan talks to the team after the win against Sierra College in game three of the NorCal Regional Playoffs round two at The Yard at City College May 11. City College beat Sierra College 8-6. Photo by Sara Nevis | [email protected]

Kiernan, who retired at the end of this season said, “For two years Dani has done an outstanding job for us. She has just grown and gotten better physically and mentally the last two years. She is a lot of fun to coach.”

Reyes’s accomplishments this season include making the All-NorCal team, the All-Big 8 Conference 1st team and  becoming the Big 8 Conference strikeout leader (158). She also was honored as City College female athlete of the month (April) and 2018-19 City College female athlete of the year.

Reyes also pitched a no-hitter April 16 against Folsom Lake College. But her individual and team accomplishments this season didn’t come without challenges. Learning to manage and accept individual team roles was her main struggle this season, said Reyes.   

“We have so much depth and so many people who can play so many positions really well. It’s hard to figure out all those moving pieces and what really works,” she said.

Reyes credited fellow team captain Morgan Conner for orchestrating a lot more bonding this season, which helped the team’s cohesiveness.

Reyes will attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo next year. She plans to play softball and study software engineering.  

“I’m going to miss the girls. They’re really great friends to me and I’m really lucky to have them,” she said. “There has never been a team I have gotten along with better than this one,” Reyes said. “I feel like our greatest strength is each other.”

Echoing Reyes’s sentiments, fellow pitcher Marah Range said, “I’ve never really considered my softball team my friends before this team. We are able to lift each other up and support one another in failure and success.”

Range considers the bond she shares with her fellow players the team’s greatest asset. “So many sophomores were dedicated to winning and working together this year,” she said. “Last year at the end of the year we formed that bond, especially during the playoffs, and that naturally went into this year.”

Range, who grew up in Sacramento, began pitching at an early age because it came naturally to her. Her accomplishments this season include: All-Big 8 Conference 2nd team, Fourth in Big 8 Conference strikeouts (71) and wins (10). Range said she is most proud of her performance during a game against Folsom Lake College this season. She pitched 11 innings and struck out 18 batters, a career high for her in a single game.  

“Marah is one of our best pitchers,” said Kiernan. “She’s a great teammate, [and] she’s very coachable, a very intelligent player.”

Acknowledging her coaches and team, Range said, “Everybody has done so much for me, supporting me and lifting me up. I’ve learned so much about pitching and mechanics from the other pitchers. Danielle has taught me so much.”

Next year Range said she will miss hanging out with her friends on the team and how they naturally mesh together. She plans to study sociology and is still determining which school to attend and if she will play softball.   

Breanna Eastlick — who played all but four innings at first base this season — is almost certain where she will be next year.

“I’m debating between Mizzou [University of Missouri at Columbia] and Fullerton,” she said. “TK [Kiernan] is talking to Fullerton’s coach for me, trying to get me a spot on the team and possibly a scholarship. Whether softball is an option or not, I’ll be at one of these two schools.”   

Eastlick, who has been studying and practicing journalism since her freshman year of high school, said she was considering these schools because they have great journalism programs. She has been accepted at both.  

“I just love telling people news, to have them rely on you,” she said. “Broadcasting is going to be my future, not softball.”  

(left to right) City College Morgan Conner (25), Danielle Reyes (4), Mackenzie Duval (5), Karmyn Rivera (2), Liz Caffero (22), Marah Range (16), and Breanna Eastlick (9) before practice at City College Monday, April 29, 2019. Round one NorCal Playoff game is Friday, May 3 at 2pm at City College. (Sara Nevis/[email protected])

Despite a very clear focus on her career goals, Eastlick said she is going to miss being with the team. “I have never been able to bond with a team so much. Literally, I can have a one-on-one conversation with anyone on my team, and I have never had that before,” she said.  

After high school Eastlick took a scholarship and a starting position on the Franklin Pierce University softball team. When the journalism program proved insufficient to meet her educational goals, she transferred to City College.

She is pleased with her decision to transfer, said Eastlick, although it has been a challenge adjusting to Kiernan’s high expectations on the field.

“Let’s say in practice someone makes a mistake. He will pause everything, go over to that person tell them what they did wrong and what they should do next time, and they’ll do it until they get it right,” she said.

Eastlick described Kiernan’s coaching style as different than any coach she has played for, and said that she appreciated his support to help her improve at first base. Her accomplishments this season include making the All-Big 8 Conference 2nd team and finishing with a .993 fielding percentage with only 2 errors and .344 batting average.

“Brea is very professional at what she does,” Kiernan said. “Maybe the best glove at first base that we’ve had in the history of the school. She works hard and is a pleasure to coach.”

Performance and coaching aside, Eastlick said she was proud of her team. “We’ve faced so many things throughout this season and so many hardships, and we’ve excelled through it all. I couldn’t ask for anything other than that. We know we can rely on each other through everything. I trust these girls with my life.”  

If any one player could be trusted to put the ball in play, according to her teammates, it might be designated player Liz Caffero. This season Caffero earned an All-Big 8 Conference honorable mention, was fourth in the Big 8 Conference for homeruns (8), and completed the season with a .590 batting average. In the postseason she hit 4 homeruns and had 8 RBIs.   

Teammates describe Caffero using words like “strong,” ”bomb,” and “good hitter.” She has been hitting over .500 nearly steadily for the past two years at City College. Caffero joined the Panthers last year and played shortstop and catcher throughout the season.  
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“I did well last year,” said Caffero. “I made first team all conference, first team all state, and Triple Crown out of the Big 8.”

“She’s an outstanding hitter,“ said Kiernan. “We only got her for about half the season this year because of eligibility reasons.”

Caffero said she has grown the most by learning how to balance being a student athlete. She had to take 22 units per semester in addition to summer and winter break courses to be eligible to play.

“It’s working now. I have good grades, and I’m taking it more seriously,” she said.   

Caffero said she is looking to continue her studies at schools like Baylor, Cal State Fullerton, ASU and others. She wants to continue her softball career and plans to become an anesthesiologist.

Before the next school year begins, Caffero will play this summer on Peru’s national softball team. She gets her Peruvian heritage from her mother’s side of the family, and one of her coaches contacted Peru’s coach to get Caffero a tryout for the team. The tryout went well, and although Caffero joined the team last year, she has yet to play with them.  

“Some of my teammates are in the U.S., so we’re going to Georgia and Florida to practice before the Pan American games,” said Caffero. “I’m going to be playing against the USA and Japan in the Pan American games in Lima, Peru.”

Karmyn Rivera’s road led her from UC Stanislaus to City College. After playing one year with UC Stanislaus, Rivera said she decided to come home, save money and keep growing. She was attracted to the strong softball program at City College.

“A lot of good girls come here,” said Rivera. “TK [Kiernan] knows a lot of people from different schools, and this was a program I could compete with and take the season into playoffs, and it’s close to home.”  

Rivera has played left field for the Panthers this season and her accomplishments include making the All-Big 8 Conference 2nd team and a .1000 fielding percentage- commiting zero errors all season. Rivera also scored the game-winning run in the second game of the NorCal super regionals, keeping the team’s season alive.  

“Karmyn is an outstanding player and a great teammate,” Kiernan said. “She made adjustments to get better this year, and she really excelled.”  

Rivera said her greatest challenge this season was realigning her focus for hitting. Throughout her career she has been a multi-dimensional hitter — she slaps, bunts and hits. This season her job was to concentrate her energy solely on hitting, which required considerable extra work.  

“I wanted my hitting to be on the same level as theirs [her teammates],” she said. “It’s come full circle, and all the extra work is showing on the field. When the important games came, I was able to produce, compete and keep my spot, and that’s where I want to be.”  

Rivera said she would love to continue playing softball next year and is looking to a future career in nursing. One thing Rivera said she is certain of: She will miss seeing her teammates every day.

“We’re really close on and off the field, and I think that’s why it worked so well on the field,” she said. “It’s not fake — it’s real — and we truly love each other, and we’re actually friends.”  

Creating that bond between teammates was third baseman Morgan Conner’s goal coming into this season.

“I just wanted to keep everybody together,” Conner said. “I really wanted everyone to be on good terms with each other — that was my biggest thing. We hit our ups and downs, but the bond we created this season — it’s awesome.”

“Some people jump into a leadership role real well,” said Kiernan. “Morgan Conner did good.”

(left to right) Karmyn Rivera (2), Marah Range (16), Breanna Eastlick (9), Mackenzie Duval (5), Danielle Reyes (4), Morgan Conner (25), and Liz Caffero (22) in the dugout before practice at The Yard at City College April 29.
Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

Though the team had good leadership, the players acknowledged a non-hierarchical feeling among its members.

“I don’t think anyone shines over anyone else,” said Eastlick. “We all feel the same, and we all feel equal. Everyone has their own part on this team, no matter what you are doing.”  

Conner added, “It’s been really nice having more teamwork than more of an individual thing like we did last year,”    

Conner grew up in Vacaville and found her way to City College two years ago. She said she saw the softball team as a great opportunity to play for a couple years and then transfer to a higher division.  

Of her performance this season, Conner said she is most proud of her fielding at third base, which earned her a spot on the All-Big 8 Conference 1st team. Conner completed the season with a .922 fielding percentage, had 5 RBIs in the postseason, and scored the sole run in the first game of the state championships.  

“Morgan is a real good team player, has a great glove,” said Kiernan. “She plays hard and has excelled this year from last year. She’s shown more aggressiveness this year.”  

Next year Conner hopes to transfer to her dream school, CSU San Marcos, to become a dental hygienist. Her priority is to stay in California, and she said she is still deciding if she will play softball.      

Reflecting on what has been the most fun this season, Conner said, “being able to be out with all the girls that I love so much and being able to play with them and build that bond with them every single day.”

Center fielder Mackenzie Duval described the impact that softball and such a bonded team has had on her life.

“The best thing about softball is all of the friendships I have made,” said Duval. “Without softball, I wouldn’t have the same support and awesome relationships I have. It also involves me in the school. It’s an outlet for school, stress and life.”    

Duval has played two years with City College, steadily improving over that time.  

“Mackenzie really excelled this year defensively,” Kiernan said. “It’s like the light clicked on. She can go back and she can come in, she’s an outstanding outfielder, a very hard worker and is very coachable.”

Duval finished the season with zero fielding errors and a .1000 fielding percentage. In the second game of the postseason, she had a triple and 4 RBIs, helping her team earn the win that moved them to the next round. Duval led her team in stolen bases (9) and earned an All-Big 8 Conference honorable mention for her performance this season.  

Next year she plans to attend Cumberland University in Tennessee, play softball, and choose a program of study that will support her goal to become a nurse.

As the Panthers sophomores move on,  Kiernan reflected on his final City College team.

“The sophomores did a really good job. Even some of the sophomores that didn’t play a lot—they did a great job,” he said. “I set high expectations every year, and they lived up to it without it being too much for them. Some players, some teams, sometimes the expectations are higher than they can actually achieve.”

Range added, “This team is really special. It meant a lot to me and it probably meant a lot to everybody on the team. We’re going to remember this team forever just because of how unique and inspired we all were.”

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