Sixteen of the nation’s best college softball teams have converged at Cal State Fullerton this week for the opportunity to gain respect and, perhaps, rise in the national rankings with a good showing in the Pony tournament.
For 29 players, it’s also a chance to again play in Orange County, where they played their high school softball. Kelly Davidson, a sophomore out of Fountain Valley High School, traveled the farthest of the 29, arriving with Northwestern’s team from Evanston, Ill.
There’s also Terry Carpenter, who returns with Fresno State; Nicky Luce, who pitches just up the freeway at Cal Poly Pomona; and Michele Granger, whose swollen pitching hand has limited her to four games with California.
“It’s great to be home,” said Carpenter, who struck out 411 and walked 10 at Edison last year. The right-hander has a streak of 36 consecutive scoreless innings for top-ranked Fresno State, including a two-hit shutout against Bowling Green Thursday.
“Every team out here has someone I know from summer ball or from Orange County,” Carpenter said.
Eleven of the 16 teams competing in the tournament have at least one Orange County player on the team.
“There’s a great crop of talent in Orange County,” Fullerton Coach Judi Garman said.
A lot of coaches get a good chance to see the Orange County talent at the Titan Softball Complex, where many high school teams play in tournaments.
“I try to tell (the coaches) not to come, but they come anyway,” said Garman, whose Titans are ranked fifth in the nation. “We get our share, but there’s not enough room for one school to recruit all the best. This is the place to come and recruit, though.”
That has been magnified the past two years, when some of the best players in the country have come out of Orange County high schools.
“The freshmen are coming in and doing a great job,” Garman said. “Like one of our seniors said, ‘I’m glad I’m a senior, because these freshmen and sophomores are so good that they’ll beat me out for my spot.’ ”
Of the 29 Orange County players, 16 are freshmen and sophomores. They include: Deanna Mays of Nebraska, who helped Kennedy to the 3-A title last year as a first baseman; Michelle Shean, a utility player at Oklahoma State who last year was an infielder at San Clemente; Gina LoPiccolo, a sophomore hitting .282 for Fresno State, who started at third base four years at Sunny Hills.
Five of the nation’s top seven teams and nine of the top 20 are competing in the tournament, which began Wednesday.
After three days of pool play, the teams break into brackets Saturday and play until the championship game Sunday at 2 p.m.
Other Orange County players in the tournament, their hometowns and schools are: Julie Standering (Anaheim) Arizona, Denise Correa (Cypress) Cal Poly Pomona, Lori Thompson (Anaheim) Pomona, Carey Hess (Anaheim) Cal State Fullerton, Jill Matyuch (Placentia) Fullerton; Tiny Glomboske (Placentia) Fullerton, Mich Debree (La Habra) Fullerton, Nikkie Lewis (Anaheim) Fullerton.
Also in the tournament are Martha Noffsinger (Huntington Beach) Fresno State, Marian Mendoza (Garden Grove) Cal State Long Beach, Ruby Flores (Buena Park) Long Beach; Annette Gonzales (La Habra) Long Beach, Kellie Kane (Costa Mesa) Long Beach, Lisa Pederson (Cypress) Long Beach, Janelle Frese (La Palma) Nebraska, Cindy Michik (Fullerton) New Mexico State, Cindy Gossmer (Anaheim) U.S. International University, Nora Flores (Buena Park) USIU, Shannon Riley (Cypress) USIU, Kelli Thomas (Laguna Niguel) USIU, Amy Geldbach (Los Alamitos) USIU, Kelly Winkler (Huntington Beach) USIU.