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Nursing Golden Sierra's playoff plans

Well-travelled second baseman Howard leads Grizzlies to the top of the GEL
By: Ray Hacke, Journal Sports Writer
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Molly Howard has the talent to play high-level college softball. That was apparent last season when the Golden Sierra High second baseman was invited to play in a tournament in Hawaii where college coaches scouted her along with hundreds of other players from across the United States. It became even more apparent when a coach attending that tournament invited Howard to play on a squad that would travel to Italy last summer through an organization called America’s Team International. “I was totally taken aback,” Howard said of the opportunity to play in Europe. “But the coach took down my e-mail address, got in touch with me and got all my information. It turned out to be the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” Howard was even recruited by at least one NCAA Division I school, San Jose State University. When it came time to make her decision about where to play after high school, however, Howard thought of her future beyond the softball diamond. That’s why she plans to play for Dominican University, an NAIA school in San Rafael that is making the move to NCAA Division II, next spring. “They’re very academics-first,” Howard said. “I talked to the coach at San Jose State, and they have a very, very good softball team, and they’re a Division I school. But they’re not as academics-first as Dominican is. “Graduating college with a .400 batting average is not going to get you many roles in life.” Howard plans to major in nursing at Dominican. She’s already logged “tons of hours” at a local hospital through Golden Sierra’s Regional Occupational Program and is excited about her chosen profession. “From the moment I got there and started interacting with patients, I just knew,” Howard said. “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor,” she added. “My dad is a paramedic, so the medical field always excited me, and nursing’s more hands-on with patients than doctors are now, so that’s why I wanted to go into nursing.” The fact that Howard is academically oriented does not mean she lacks passion for her sport – far from it. ‘She wants to take another four buckets (of ground balls) after practice is over,” said Howard’s father Calvin, who has been her coach at Golden Sierra and elsewhere for the past eight years. “She wants more balls hit at her and more balls to hit. That’s the kind of athlete she is.” During her tour of Italy last summer, Howard visited three cities – Milan, Florence and Rome. She got to enjoy homestyle Italian meals with the families of opposing players. On the softball diamond, Howard got to play in the stadium used for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome – where, according to Howard’s father Calvin, the Olympic torch still burns. The game is still growing in Italy – as Howard put it, “It’s definitely not American softball.” “Two of the teams (we faced) had pitchers trained in America,” Howard said. “Their pitching was up to the par that I’m used to.” As Golden Sierra’s leadoff hitter, Howard is batting .326 this season with one home run, five RBIs, 16 runs scored and a team-high 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts. A four-year varsity starter for the Grizzlies (7-7, 3-1 Golden Empire League), Howard has been the team’s captain all four years, the team’s MVP for the last three and an all-GEL selection for the last two. Last year Howard led Golden Sierra to its first Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance in a decade, hitting .446 with six home runs, 12 RBIs, 33 stolen bases and 38 runs scored. The senior would love nothing more than to lead the Grizzlies to another postseason appearance this spring and perhaps take them even further than last year, when they fell in the first round to eventual Division VI champion Le Grand. “We were excited so much to get there,” Howard said. “Golden Sierra hadn’t had a softball team reach the playoffs in 10 years, and it was a big thing for our school. The girls who have come up this year have better expectations.”