Things are getting exciting for Nicole Shammas, sophomore center fielder for Orange Coast College.
Shammas played four years of varsity softball at University High and was a starter at Orange Coast last season.
But only in the last couple of months has Shammas finally started to play up to her expectations.
After hitting .192 as a freshman, she got off to a a slow start this season, but things quickly fell into place because she learned to control her emotions.
Shammas, who bats second, hit .377 in 21 Orange Empire Conference games and was selected as the conference’s most valuable player. She batted .301 overall and led OCC with 28 runs scored.
She also was an All-Southern California selection.
“In high school, I felt like I was a solid player but I was too nervous,” Shammas said. “I would beat myself up and be mad about a game for the whole season. Even when I did well in a game, it wasn’t good enough.”
The reason for her improvement is pretty simple.
“Confidence and maturity,” she said. “I’ll say it over and over again. They are the big reasons for me doing better.
“Now, I want to go out there and play all the time. I want to hit, and I want the ball to be hit to me. Before, if it was late in the game I didn’t want the ball to come to me.”
Shammas wasn’t sure if she was going to be good enough to play college softball but tried out for the team just to see what would happen.
After she made it last season, her confidence slowly increased with each game. Her batting average might have been low, but Shammas rallied in the final month of the season.
Her best performance came in the State tournament. She helped Orange Coast to a third-place finish and was selected to the all-tournament team. She batted .313 and made several outstanding catches in the tournament.
“Her defense as much as her bat got her on that team,” OCC Coach Nick Trani said. “She’s a very intense player and works really hard. She always wants to get better and takes the game very seriously.”
Shammas took last summer off to rest and work toward her eventual goal of becoming a teacher and coach. She was a coach for an age-group softball team. She also coached the freshman-sophomore girls’ basketball team at University High in the fall and winter.
“I’ve known since I was in high school that I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “Then I took a counseling course last semester and I was sure. I love sports and working with people.”
Orange Coast (29-13), the Orange Empire Conference champion, plays host to College of the Canyons (22-15) in the regional playoffs at noon Friday. Mt. San Antonio (29-11) plays Grossmont (20-11) at 2 p.m., also at OCC. The winners play at 4 p.m. The tournament ends Saturday, with games at 10 a.m., noon and the championship game at 2 p.m. The schedule is the same at each of the four regional sites.
Cypress, which finished a game behind Orange Coast, also plays host to a four-team regional. The Chargers (40-15) play Pasadena (17-20) at noon and El Camino (20-17) plays Antelope Valley (37-9) at 2 p.m.
Rancho Santiago (26-17), the third-place team from the Orange Empire Conference, also made the playoffs. The Dons play Moorpark (29-12) at 2 p.m. in the regional at Palomar. Palomar (33-11), the defending State champion, plays Ventura (20-20) at noon.
Long Beach (35-5) will play host to the final regional. The Vikings play College of the Desert (16-16) at noon and Chaffey (29-12) plays San Diego Mesa (19-19) at 2 p.m.
The winner at each of the four regional sites advances to the State tournament, May 20-22 at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.