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February 14, 2006 > Ohlone College Women's Softball

Ohlone College Women's Softball

Renegades seek fourth title

With three consecutive division championships under their belts, the Ohlone College women's softball team is using a combination of talented freshmen and sophomores to continue their reign. Coach Donna Runyon, Ohlone softball coach for 18 years, knows a fourth repeat is going to be tough since, "everyone is out to beat us." The Renegades are again fielding a potential championship team but Runyon notes that while some capable freshman players have earned starting positions, they lack experience.

Team participation is open to all interested students. Coach Runyon says, "If a kid walks on in the spring, whether or not she was here in the fall, she will have an opportunity to play." Player self-selection is often the case as students consider the extensive hours of practice, competition and the probability of playing and moving to the next level at a four-year school. There has been no limit to the roster; Runyon says that uniforms are available for all team members, presently at 14 players. Ohlone softball "runs like a class" so, for instance, in the fall semester, a variety of people sign up including guys interested in studying fundamentals and practice techniques they can use to coach other softball teams.

Although softball is similar in most respects to hardball, Coach Runyon says that a primary difference is, "We could probably win our league and go to the Final Eight with two pitchers; in baseball that is unheard of. In baseball, they need starters and relievers and carry eight to 10 pitchers." She remarks that a dominant pitcher who moved on to Abilene Christian College [Kristine Beristianos of Newark], pitched 90 percent of the games during her tenure at Ohlone.

Postseason play is a Renegade goal ending with state playoffs held this year in Redding's new Big League Dreams Sports Complex. The complex, with five lighted fields and three - three-quarter scale "replica" fields with artificial "field turf" and backdrops that mimic beloved baseball stadiums such as Chicago's Wrigley Field, Boston's Green Monster at Fenway Park and San Francisco's Candlestick Park is the first of its type in Northern California. Coach Runyon says, "It would be fun to be a participant in the Final Eight, but to do that we need to finish in the Final Four of Northern California. The Final Four of the north will meet the Final Four of the south in the California State Championship.

Ohlone has been a top contender in northern California for years. Maintaining a consistently good program depends on attracting top talent to the school. Coach Runyon says that the reputation of the school is important and adds that "at this level we cannot offer anything but getting people to the next level." The advantage for players who attend a two-year community college is "teaching of life skills, and coaches that care." She notes, "I love where I am and love the challenges." One of the biggest challenges is the short, two-year span of time with the athletes; "By the end of their freshman year, they have your philosophy, what you are all about and what you expect, but by the end of their second month of their sophomore year, we are writing letters to get them out."

A big advantage of Ohlone Renegade softball is sponsorship by Easton, a bat, glove and equipment company that supplies equipment for the team. Only an elite few are invited to accept this sponsorship. Two other teams in Northern California and six teams in the state are sponsored. "I am in a circle with Fresno State, Arizona State, UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma State," says Runyon.

On home visits, Coach Runyon lets parents know that when their daughter attends Ohlone as a student-athlete rather than a four-year college, she will get the same English, Math, Sociology and History classes for a lot less money. "We want parents to know that we are actively involved with getting their kids graduated in two years."

Coach Runyon and many Ohlone coaches do "grade checks" on a regular basis to make sure class attendance and academic performance is maintained at an acceptable level. "Academics go hand-in-hand with athletics," says Runyon. She adds that the Athletic Department has been working with the Mathematics and Science Departments to schedule lab classes in the mornings so athletes, who are practicing and playing in the afternoons, can complete their studies.

Comparing the preparation of her players with those at a four-year school, the coach notes, "While my kids have played 84 games, at another school, as a freshman and sophomore, a player may sit on a bench, watching what is going on, batting twice and running 16 times. Who do you think is going to be ready and better prepared to play their Junior year?"

Coach Runyon and Assistant Coach Dave Villegas invite the community to watch the Renegades go for a "four-peat" championship this year. The league opener is against a tough Mission College team at home on the Ohlone campus, Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m.

For those who cannot get away during the week, an unusual "triple header" is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. Grab a snack from the concession stand and barbeque while watching exciting action on the diamond. At 10 a.m., Ohlone faces College of the Redwoods and at noon, College of the Redwoods will square off against American River College. The afternoon event at 2 p.m. pits the Ohlone Renegades against American River College. This FREE event promises to be a fun time for all.

Coach Runyon has put out a call for "batgirls" to help during the games. If your daughter is interested, call (510) 659-6053.

Note: The Ohlone College softball field is located at the second left (Lot K) after entering at the Pine Street entrance off Mission Boulevard.

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