SRJC softball team motivated for playoff run

SRJC softball players, from left, Krissy Pardoski, Samantha Bartee, Megan Winters, Megan Stroud, Dana Thomsen and Chauntel Cesna strike stern poses for a team motivational poster that illustrates the Bear Cubs’ “Our Time” motto for the 2014 season. SRJC Athletics

SRJC softball players, from left, Krissy Pardoski, Samantha Bartee, Megan Winters, Megan Stroud, Dana Thomsen and Chauntel Cesna strike stern poses for a team motivational poster that illustrates the Bear Cubs’ “Our Time” motto for the season.
SRJC Athletics

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By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Narrowly missing the state softball playoffs last season has been a powerful catalyst in the Santa Rosa Junior College softball teams’ climb into the ranks of the state’s best. Strong bats and steady pitching have Santa Rosa on track to end a decade-long state playoff drought.

“Last year has a lot to do with how well we’ve been playing. It’s a lot of motivation,” said pitcher/infielder Megan Winters, from Analy High.

Santa Rosa returns four starters and several more players from last season’s team. Combined with a handful of newcomers, this year’s squad has come together with one common goal.

“With the talent we had we knew we would have a good year. Our expectations are high,” said outfielder Krissy Pardoski, from South Fork High in Humboldt County. “We can’t let each other down.”

The Bear Cubs started strong against a difficult nonleague schedule to bolster the playoff resume. Santa Rosa is more than halfway to the team’s 30-win target with 17 wins through last Saturday.

They split the first six games in the very tough Big 8 Conference, which challenges the Bear Cubs by matching the team against California’s best. Four conference teams are ranked among the state’s top 15, with Santa Rosa 10th.

“We went out to get the best schedule we could. We’re always talking about getting better,” coach Phil Wright said. “The girls are really buying in.”

A home doubleheader with Cosumnes River this Saturday caps a lengthy homestand. The afternoon will be highlighted by the Marv Mays Day celebration, remembering the legendary SRJC coach. The Bear Cubs then play 11 of their next 12 games on the road before finishing with three home contests.

Strong pitching is a premium, especially away from home. Santa Rosa has depth and a dynamic starting duo.

“There’s not so much pressure on just one pitcher. We work really well together,” Winters said.

Mixing dropball specialist Winters and riseball standout Dana Thomsen in the same game helps keep the best hitting opponents off balance.

The pair is sharp, in part, after several seasons battling in the Sonoma County League. Thomsen, from Petaluma High, is a year younger.

Haylie Chase, from St. Bernard’s in Eureka, provides depth in the rotation, which helped Santa Rosa overcome three weeks with Thomsen sidelined by an illness. “Now that they’re all healthy I think it’s looking real good,” Wright said.

A strength from the first game has been the Bear Cubs’ bats. Santa Rosa outscores opponents by two runs per game.

Four players have averages higher than .350, led by shortstop Samantha Bartee, who also leads in hits and runs batted in. The second-year player from Maria Carrillo started two seasons ago before sitting out a year.

Pardoski, Winters and Chauntel Cesna, an outfielder from Rodriguez High in Fairfield, bolster the top of the lineup.

“We’re a really aggressive team. We’re not afraid to push the envelope,” Pardoski said.

The Bear Cubs have improved this season on defense and in maintaining a sharp mentality throughout an entire game. “We’re better prepared for situations. We have faith in each other,” Winters said.

With pitching and defense to keep games close, and bats to outscore opponents, Santa Rosa is playing with more confidence than ever.

Bear Cubs’ athletes understand that getting the program back into the state playoffs will require a strong finish.

“We not only want to make the playoffs, we want to win it all,” Pardoski said. “We’ve really dedicated ourselves.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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