Del Oro, Bear River stars gear up for Optimist Game

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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When Annette Merjano steps onto the softball diamond at Capital Christian this evening, she’ll take her final at-bats as a high school athlete. “It hits you hard because you’re like, ‘wow, this is the last high school game of anything,’” the Del Oro High senior said. Merjano will join teammate Savannah Pingree, rivals from the Sierra Foothill League and stars from other leagues and divisions throughout the foothills in representing the North in the Sacramento Optimist All-Star Softball game. The annual senior showcase is often a bittersweet experience for the players, virtually all of who are moving on to play in the college ranks next year. The North and South team pairings create squads comprised of bitter league rivals and others who may have never heard of each other. “It’s kind of different to play with people who were your biggest rivals,” said Merjano, who will continue her career at Sierra College. “Now we’re all playing together. You have two practices to get to know them.” Merjano is no stranger to SFL schools. She had a breakthrough season for the Eagles, emerging as a power threat after leading the team in average a year ago. She hit .284 and had team highs in RBIs (26), doubles (7) and homers (5), helping Del Oro (23-4) to the Sierra Foothill League title and a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth. Pingree, who will attend Willamette University on an athletic scholarship, compiled a .56 ERA and had 109 strikeouts in 124 innings to earn her second league MVP honor. The North squad also features a pair of Bear River stars who led the Bruins to section titles in all four years of high school. Courtney Ceo, Bear River’s accomplished leadoff hitter who will attend the University of Oregon, hit .457 this season and led the Bruins in steals (31) and runs (37). Katie Mathis, who will continue her career at San Diego State, batted .475 with 23 RBIs and a team-high 14 extra-base hits, including nine triples. They’ll be joined by Lincoln ace Stephanie Tofft, Whitney sisters Rachel and Samantha Hopping, Rocklin’s Cara Delgado and Rebecca Eatough and Roseville’s Emily Wagner. “It really is an all-star team, top to bottom,” said Lincoln’s Donna Tofft, who will coach the North and will be assisted by Bear River’s Duwaine Ganskie. “Each team is solid. One through nine, it’s the best of the best.” The South team is made up of stars from perennial powers like Elk Grove and Sheldon. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.