Annette Merjano is in a league of her own

Del Oro, Sierra College softball player named top junior college catcher in California
By: Matthew Kimel / Journal sports editor
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If you’ve ever seen a yellow Beetle with baseball-like stitching driving around the foothills, you may have wondered who’s that softball-loving lady behind the wheel.

That would be Annette Merjano, a 2010 Del Oro High School and Sierra College alumna, who was named the California Junior College Catcher of the Year last week for her work at Sierra as a sophomore last season.

Merjano, who hails from Auburn and has been playing softball since she about 5, was honored last Tuesday by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association as one of 10 student-athletes to win a 2012 Diamond Sports Catchers of the Year award.

The award is presented annually to the top catcher from an NFCA member institution throughout 10 softball divisions in the country. A committee comprised of head coaches in each of the 10 divisions determined the winner of their respective award.

Her list of kudos didn’t stop there.

“I’m shocked; all-conference, all-state, all-American in state, all-California,” said Merjano, who hadn’t played catcher since her freshman year of high school, of the awards she won for her 2011 play. “I never dreamed about getting all those. It feels so good to win all those.”

Ironically, Merjano wasn’t even supposed to play catcher in 2012.

“I’m a utility player,” said Merjano, who was a designated hitter and an outfielder in her first year at Sierra. “… The girl who was catching my freshman year quit. It fell on me to step up to the plate.”

Merjano stepped up to the plate alright. She played a major role in helping Sierra win a Big 8 Conference title and both the regional and super regional crowns en route to a berth in the CCCAA State Softball Championship.

Aside from her stout defense, she also led the team in hits (72) and doubles (20). She was second in home runs (15) and RBI (59).

“I’ve always had a really strong bat and been able to hit the ball wherever it’s pitched,” Merjano said. “… People say I make half contact and it goes so far. Home runs and hitting are a big part of me.”

Sierra College coach Darci Brownell believes Merjano was deserving of the award.

“It was great to coach her,” Brownell said. “She never really caused any problems. She was always out there early working with pitchers and then she went into the cages to hit. She put in a lot of extra time and it paid off.

“She’s one of the better all-around catchers, behind the plate, at the plate. We’ve had catchers in the past we had to hit for. That’s what made her so good.”

For Brownell and Sierra, it will be tough to replace the Catcher of the Year.

“We’re going to miss not only her, but her whole family,” the coach said of Annette, Mary Sue and Anthony Merjano. “They’ve been in this community forever and always helped us. Annette deserves this great award and we’re going to root for her at Concordia.”

Merjano’s skills earned her a scholarship to play at Concordia University in Irvine, where she’s studying physical education in hopes of one day teaching and coaching.

Of living in Southern California, she said, “I love it, it’s amazing. I love the area, the school, the people.”

Merjano isn’t sure what position she’ll be playing this year.

“It’s fall ball,” she said. “Everything is up for grabs. I could be catching, I could be infield. I hope to hit for sure.”

If Merjano had her way, though, she’d be catching for Concordia.

“I would love more than anything to be the catcher,” she said.

If she happens to play another position though, her love of the game will still flourish.

If you need proof, just take a look at her car.

“She loves the sport so much,” said her father, Anthony, “that she wanted to make her Beetle look like a softball.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel