Coaches, players seek redemption

Despite low participation in women’s sports, softball team aims to rebound from winless season

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

The Comet softball team slogged through a difficult 2015 season, finishing with a 0-27 record and in the basement of the Bay Valley Conference.

This year, Contra Costa College welcomes the opportunity to right some of the wrongs that plagued the softball team last year.

Coach Karolyn Gubbine returns for her third season as coach after overcoming last year’s challenges of fielding a team short of eligible bodies, while lacking even more in terms of experienced players.

This Comet squad features five returners and six freshmen. All but one of the women have live action softball experience.

“Last year was rough, but I think we are going to have fun this year,” Gubbine said. “The games are going to go a lot smoother.”

Fans who attended Comet games last year were routinely treated to mercy rule stoppages and injury-related forfeitures.

Fielding a complete squad has been tough for local community college women’s athletics in all sports across the board. After failing to field a complete squad the CCC women’s soccer team was forced to cancel its 2015 season.

In basketball, Merritt College, Napa Valley College and Los Medanos College were all forced to cancel their 2015-16 seasons after failing to field complete squads.

“Dealing with the flakiness sucks,” Gubbine said. “Recruiting on this level is an everyday struggle. Kids go where the flashy names are so athletes at schools that aren’t established don’t have the pedigree or the same mentality as other kids.”

The coach began collecting players almost immediately following last season. With a larger group, Gubbine has been able to split players into different fielding positions more often to give them the ability to work on position specific skills.

Most important is the overall shift in attitude of the team.

“Now we have people here who really want to play,” sophomore catcher Gina Balan said. “Everyone has a positive attitude and we have increased our overall experience level.”

In agreement with Balan is second year shortstop Angelica Espinal.

“You can see it in the way we react to the little things,” Espinal said. “Before when we made mistakes it was hard to get past them. Now we pick each other up without dwelling on mistakes — we use them as tools to learn to get better from.”

Not all of the Comet players experienced last year’s bitter performances that now fuel this team’s new appetite for success.

First-year player Nancy Bernal was oblivious to the trials and tribulations that marred the Comet season last year.

“I didn’t hear much about last year,” Bernal said. “I just came out to compete, have fun and bond with the team.”

Gubbine placed the rangy freshman at second base and is confident she can handle the responsibilities regarding coverage, even as the position is widely considered the position that requires the most thought, excluding the catcher.

Also expected to show improvement and have a more important role in the team’s success going forward is Stacey Fernandez. Last year, she came to the squad with the least experience and ended the year showing the most improvement of any member of the team.

“She’s been putting in a lot of work and it has been showing,” Gubbine said. “She’s a great learner.”

CCC takes the field to begin its season tomorrow in doubleheader action in Hayward against Chabot College.

CCC was forced to forfeit its first game after failing to make the trip to Salinas to play Hartnell College last Wednesday.

The game was missed when players did not met all of the requirements needed to be eligible.

“It’s completely unacceptable to forfeit games due to things like grades, physicals or paperwork issues,” Gubbine said. “It doesn’t just affect you. There are nearly 100 people who get inconvenienced when a game gets canceled last minute.”