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COC softball averts disaster

Posted: March 12, 2008 1:58 a.m.
Updated: May 13, 2008 5:02 a.m.
When the season was starting, College of the Canyons first-year head coach John Wissmath didn't know what to expect.

He didn't know much about the teams his team would be facing pre-Western State Conference play.

Wissmath had just 13 players and none of those had significant pitching experience.

Combined with facing some of the top junior college softball programs in Southern California, the Cougars got off to a 2-7 start and a few of those were by mercy rule.

But when WSC play started on Valentine's Day, COC turned the corner.

"At first I thought it would demoralize them," Wissmath said of the tough start. "But they just had no fear."

Since Feb. 14, the team is 10-9, and approaching .500 at 12-16. In WSC play, they are 6-4.

The College of the Canyons dropped a pair Tuesday against Mission, though.

"We played good today, but they're a pretty legit team," Wissmath said of Mission. "They had a nice rest and we had 10 games last week."

Nonetheless, the most impressive part of the turnaround is that the Cougars don't have any pitchers whose primary position was pitching before this season.

In a sport that normally relies heavily on dominant pitching, that can be disastrous.

Freshman and Valencia graduate Lauren Rose hadn't pitched since eighth grade. Sara Campos had pitched a little in high school, but Wissmath estimates she saw action in 15 games and it wasn't in a starting role.

"Right now the biggest thing is my pitching staff has done a good job throwing strikes and allows my defense to make plays," Wissmath said. "We haven't been making a lot of errors."

The Cougars head coach said he's been particularly impressed with the play of Jacklyn Ruacho in center field and freshman second baseman Sarah Hasenfus, especially with their gloves. Wissmath said his infield has been able to turn double plays as well as any team he's coached.

And even when COC has made errors in WSC play, their bats have saved the day.

In conference action, the Cougars are out-scoring opponents 75-44. Before WSC began, COC had never scored more than five runs in a game. Since then, they have scored 10 or more runs four times.

Wissmath said the team has been keeping in mind a motto these days about their offense.

"A swinging stick is a dangerous stick," Wissmath said. "We're all swinging the bats and it's been working for us."

All of it has combined to a nice run where the Cougars are putting in a strong performance in WSC play. The team had won three straight through Monday, after winning the last three games of the Fresno Tournament over the weekend.

For Hasenfus, who also plays soccer for the Cougars, she said playing those tough games in preseason has prepared the team for their conference slate. Even when they lost those games, she said the team saw they could hang with good teams, so it's given the team confidence.

"I'm actually really proud of the girls not giving up on the season," Hasenfus said. "We still stuck through. I'm really proud of everyone. I think it's really amazing none of us gave up even though the odds were against us in the beginning."


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