Orange Coast College’s softball team has been off to a hot start, opening the season 14-5, 6-3 in conference.
Led by Jodie Legaspi-Kiaha in her third year as the full-time faculty, the Pirates are making a name for itself in the Orange Empire Conference.
“This year is a year that is solidifying the growth that had been happening behind the scenes from previous years. We are really reaping the fruit of the previous foundation years this year,” Legaspi-Kiaha said.
In the first 19 games of the season OCC brought 114 runners home, averaging six runs per game. The Pirates have a team slugging percentage of .459 in the season.
In the first two months of the season, the Pirates only lost one game. The loss came from the No. 2 team in the state and four consecutive OEC Champions, Cypress College.
On March 7, OCC softball broke through into the top 10 of the California Community College Athletic Association Southern California poll with its 11-1 record to start the season.
“That is the first time we have been in this category in a long time,” Legaspi-Kiaha said.
This ranking is a testament to her coaching staff, administrative staff and her players who have bought in to the process.
Legaspi-Kiaha has brought new upgrades to the stadium including the installation of new dirt and a time capsule has been buried under home plate originating from her inaugural season in 2017. Thanks to the work of the program and administrative staff, the following year a new scoreboard was installed beyond the outfield.
Through the first nine games of conference, freshman Liana Castro posts a .500 batting average and has sent four balls over the fence. She leads the team with seven RBIs and a 1.222 slugging percentage.
Freshman leadoff hitter Brooklynn Pack leads the team with 25 at bats and 12 hits. She posts a .480 batting average on conference play.
Taking the helm in the circle for Coast is sophomore Bronwyn Jarvis. The right handed pitcher has appeared in seven games during conference play and has held opponents to just 14 runs in her 25 innings of work.
A focal point so far in the Pirate season has been beating Santiago Canyon College for the first time.
A strong pitching performance by Jordyn East held the Hawks to just one run. A late game homerun by Castro tied the game. Fundamental softball proved to work in favor of the Pirates in the bottom of the seventh.
After a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt, and a fly ball to the right side, OCC found itself with a runner on third with the top of the lineup up. Third baseman Pack came up clutch with a walk off single to left field to beat the Hawks for the first time in school history.
“That was fun, but with this group I think they expect that,” Legaspi-Kiaha said of the win over SCC.
OCC is the baby softball program in the OEC, entering its third season following Legaspi-Kiaha’s full-time time hiring.
For Coast softball, the team’s community and dynamic improvement has contributed to its successes.
“Last year I think it was harder starting out and building a program,” assistant coach Tara Allis said.
Even after its historic walk off win, Legaspi-Kiaha doesn’t think her Pirates have played up to the teams maximum potential.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best softball yet which is scary,” Legaspi-Kiaha said.
Allis works with the player’s mental aspect to the game with her background in sports psychology.
“They’re going to be some that are going to be great base hit hitters, and then we have girls who are going to be able to hit it over the fence,” Allis said about the women knowing their roles.
Despite previous unsuccessful seasons, OCC softball has sent standout players to continue their softball careers at four-year universities.
Gretchen Hom, an outfielder with the Pirate program from 2015 to 2017 is now a senior playing at Cal State Fullerton.
After last season, Pirates freshman catcher Kristen Ramillano transferred to Cal State San Marcos continuing her career with the Cougars.
Sophomore Colorado native Cora Tyo said last season’s team had some sort of disconnect that didn’t allow it to bloom to its full potential. Tyo thinks this year’s mix of returning sophomores and incoming freshman who came in willing to work rather than going through the motions will create the team that succeeds in conference play this season.
“The team is the best group of people I’ve played with and for,” the 20-year-old communications major said.
Allis sees the returning sophomore embrace what areas of play they needed to work on and what went well with individual and team dynamics last year and make a change to succeed this season.
“We obviously have a large returning sophomore class that has accepted the challenge of maintaining the culture that was previously established and that we have been talking about,” Legaspi-Kiaha said. “We have a very bought in freshman class that understands what we are trying to do here.”
The top two teams in the conference automatically punch their ticket to the state championship tournament. Other top teams are thrown into what is considered a cluster. Rankings and standing take the reins to be considered. Programs need to have a full 40-game schedule and have over a .500 winning percentage, Legaspi-Kiaha said.
After huge conference wins against Golden West and Saddleback, the Pirates look to dominate in the second half.
OCC has a three game road stint this week. After a conference game was postponed, OCC will return home on Tuesday vs. conference rival Santa Ana College.