SBCC opens up with brutal schedule

It’s tough enough opening your season at the defending state champion but it’s even tougher when your softball roster has been trimmed to 12 players.

That’s the situation for 11th-year SBCC coach Paula Congleton, whose club travels to Cerritos for its season opener on Tuesday at 3 p.m. On Saturday, they’ll hit the road to face last year’s state runner-up, Mt. San Antonio.

“We had a roster of 18 in September and we had 10 returners before Christmas break,” noted Congleton. “As we get more talented players, our team gets better which has a ripple effect and opportunities for our players to continue their careers. Now, we’re down to 13 players. Actually, it’s 12 since our No. 2 pitcher, Bryanne Monelo, is going to have knee surgery on Thursday. She’ll be out for about three weeks.”

Five freshman from last year’s 22-24 squad have moved on to four-year schools. Jen Mosier, an all-Southern Cal utility player, accepted a full-ride scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. Kasie Muro moved on to Cal State Bakersfield while Cierra Lard and Barbie Clemons are both at Mesa College in Grand Junction, Colo. All-WSC pitcher Kristina Sewell is playing in South Dakota.

“This is a very unusual situation, it’s the first time it’s ever happened to us in such a short period of time,” Congleton noted. “Usually, we get our players for two years and then they’re ready to transfer. With it happening this late in the game, it pretty much handcuffs us.

“Jen (Mosier) just left two weeks ago. We had 22 kids last year. Our numbers will probably be low all year. Where am I going to get kids?”

SBCC went 13-12 in conference last year and led the WSC with a .337 batting average.

The top returners are Gabby Garza (1st team All-WSC pitcher); second baseman Erin Breck (all-state, all-WSC); outfielders Sara Gurchinoff and Sierra Van Olphen; infielder Brianne Bagwell and catcher Sonja Crawford of San Marcos High.

They’ll be joined by newcomers Becky Abbott (utility) and Lauren Takayesu of San Marcos (outfield), infielders Amanda Sharp, Lauren Gniadek, Kellee Venturi, and infielder Bianca Alvarez, who redshirted last year.

The Vaqueros make their home debut on Feb. 7 against Rio Hondo.

“I know we can be successful,” said Congleton. “The kids that left are great kids and will have an impact on their new teams immediately. But we still have a good foundation with the returning kids and incoming freshmen. We have great chemistry and I think we’ll be in good shape if we can avoid injuries.”