Success differential is all about experience

Posted by: Press Democrat correspondent Dewey Forget

Watching Santa Rosa take on Ukiah in softball the other day, the disparity in talent was apparent. Ukiah pitched, hit and fielded the ball cleanly, while Santa Rosa had trouble making basic plays.

But why would there be such a big difference?

The Santa Rosa girls looked to be equal athletically. According to Santa Rosa coach Jeff Pratt, the difference is experience. He should know. He’s been around Empire softball for 30 years in a variety of coaching jobs.

“I’m in my sixth year at Santa Rosa, and we still haven’t had a true pitcher,” Pratt said. “We don’t have a program in place to develop a pitcher.” And let’s be honest. Softball is all about pitching and defense.

Pratt went on to explain that the Panthers’ goal is simply to improve each game. He said the lack of a JV program or a good club feeder program hurts Santa Rosa, adding that one of the big reasons Rancho Cotate and Montgomery churn out competitive teams year in and year out, is a proven and successful junior program and club ball players.

Many of the Santa Rosa players don’t touch a ball in the summer. “That really makes it hard to build your program,” Pratt said.

Ursuline, Elsie Allen and Piner, along with Santa Rosa, did not field JV teams this season. In fact, Elsie Allen folded its varsity team a couple of weeks ago and are forfeiting their remaining games. Pratt said Elsie Allen had to rob its JV team to field a varsity squad, and when Lobos began to drop out due to bad grades and other problems, there weren’t enough players left.

Even in the midst of a rough year – the Panthers have one won just three games – there is a feel-good story. At second base for the Panthers is Emily Lopez, who is deaf. Lopez looks towards first base frequently for help from Elizabeth Field, who Pratt has assigned to be Lopez’ ears on the field. There is also a signer there every game to assist Lopez.

“She makes some plays and doesn’t make others,” Pratt said. “Just like most of our players.”