Sierra College softball’s quest for 1st state title still on; coach has 599 victories with Wolverines

By: Trevor Horn / Auburn Journal Correspondent
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Gabby Gonzalez is the leader of the whiteboard in the Sierra College women’s softball locker room.

The board has a checklist of goals from the Regional and Super Regional tournaments that stemmed from winning each game to staying humble and continuing the team motto of “get it done in the seats before you go in the cleats,” referring to getting classwork done before softball.
Gonzalez, a sophomore first baseman out of Roseville High, comes in on Mondays and grabs her purple marker and goes down the list.

“It’s the first thing I do,” Gonzalez said.

So far, so good.

The final list was written this week with the last item being the biggest prize: the first state title in program history.

The Wolverines (40-4) will begin the quest for the title Friday at 8 p.m. against Santiago Canyon College (37-6) in the opening round of the CCCAA Softball State Championships in Bakersfield.

This is the third trip to the state tournament for Sierra, all since 2009. The Wolverines finished as state runner-ups in 2009 and lost in the opening rounds in 2012.

“Those teams left their mark and I tell these girls, ‘If you’re going to leave your mark, you’ve got to do better,’” coach Darci Brownell said. “I’ve never coached a group that is more focused than this team.”

The Wolverines cruised through their first-round game of the Super Regionals with a 21-8 win over Santa Rosa. Sophomore Tayana Mata drove in nine runs, and according to Brownell, that is "most likely" a single-game school record.

“She works so hard, so hard work does pay off,” Brownell said.

With a win Friday, it would also be the 600th victory for Brownell since taking over the program in 2000.

Brownell said she cannot remember the other milestone victories over the years, but the first win 14 years ago at Modesto Junior College has never left her memory.

"I remember the first win," Brownell said. "We were at Modesto. But other than that, I don't remember those other ones."

Starting pitcher Kalyn Paque is in her first season with Sierra. The freshman was named Big 8 Conference Pitcher of the Year and was named to the all-state team. Paque (20-1) said this is the most tight-knit team she has played on and giving back to Brownell would be a treat.

“She’s really selfless and gives so much to her players,” Paque said. “For us to give that to her would mean so much.”

The admiration goes both ways between players and coach.

“This is a special group,” Brownell said. “They have this special thing about them. Any milestone like that, to do it with this group, would be amazing.”

Added Gonzalez: “I am just grateful to have her as a coach. She’s so hard working and the reason why we are so successful.”

Santiago won the Orange Empire Conference title this season and beat Santa Ana 6-2 in the Southern Super Regional to advance to the state tournament.

The winner Friday of the Sierra- Santiago showdown will most likely play San Mateo Saturday at 3 p.m. San Mateo beat Sierra 11-9 in 12 innings on Feb. 14.