Wermes a quick study at Chico St.

Catcher shines defensively, swings steady bat in her first college season
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Like a California Highway Patrol officer parked along Interstate 80 tracking freeway motorists with a radar gun, Jenna Wermes waits, keeping an eye out, hoping to nab speeders. And just as motorists tend to slow down when they spot CHP cruisers on the side of the freeway, opposing runners curb their urge to take off at high speeds when they see Wermes crouching behind home plate. It’s difficult for runners to steal bases when the Bear River High graduate plays catcher for the Chico State University softball team. Wermes can throw to any base from her knees, meaning she doesn’t have to waste precious seconds springing up from her position to fire the ball. Only 22 runners attempted steals against Wermes in 50 games this season, which recently concluded, and Wermes threw seven of them out. By contrast, 46 runners attempted thieveries against Chico State’s other freshman catcher, Reina Andreatta — and 31 of them were successful. “When there’s runners on base, that’s one of my favorite things to do,” Wermes said. “I want to throw them out. It gets me so pumped.” Batting in the No. 4, 5 or 6 spots, Wermes hit .246 for Chico State and was among the Wildcats’ leaders in several offensive categories, including RBIs (16, tied for second), hits (34, fifth), doubles (six, third), and on-base percentage (.340, fifth). Still, she’d like to improve her power numbers — she had no home runs, and her slugging percentage was .290. “The majority of my hits were singles and doubles,” Wermes said. “I hit the ball really square. I still want to get the same RBIs and (score) runs. I just want to be the power hitter my coach wants me to be.” Wermes isn’t the only college softball player in her family. Her older sister, Candice Valerga — whose name changed when she got married last summer — is a junior shortstop/third baseman at Simpson University in Redding. Valerga transferred there after becoming an All-American at Sierra College. Both Wermes and Valerga had stellar careers at Bear River. The two were selected to the All-Pioneer Valley League first team a combined seven times. “It’s cool to know I have a sister who can play ball as good as I,” Wermes said. “Over the summer we ran a lot together. It’s cool to have a family member who’s at the same level as me. It’s a lot of fun.” Wermes is an interior design major. For her senior project at Bear River, she interned with Wendy Robinson, a family friend who works as an interior designer in Rocklin, and “I knew that’s what I wanted to do every day for work.” “I’ve always loved being in my room and changing things around,” she said. “I used to change my bedroom around every month.” Coming out of a Bear River program that has won back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section titles the past two seasons, Wermes had to deal with something this season that she isn’t used to — losing. Chico State went 19-36, including 6-26 against teams in its conference, the California Collegiate Athletic Association. “It was frustrating at times,” Wermes said. “But we have a lot of good talent — we have seven freshmen on the team. “We lost 26 games by a run. We were always in it with the other team — just, nothing went our way. We had the occasional one bad inning.” Wermes believes the Wildcats will turn things around soon enough. “Next year will be great because we’ll have experience,” she said.