SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – In College of the Canyons head softball coach John Wissmath's 15 years of coaching softball, he calls this year his "most anticipated" yet. Coming off a Western State Conference, Blue Division championship, the Cougar softball team is back and hungry for a state title.
Despite making it to the postseason in 2009, the Cougars fell quickly, losing to Saddleback College in the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. The only disappointment for the 2009 WSC Coach of the Year Wissmath was losing that game; he was proud of everything else about his second season as head coach at COC. Crediting the early postseason loss to the youth of last year’s squad, Wissmath is positive that the growth and maturity of the seven now-sophomores will bode well for the 2010 season.
Returning to the pitching circle for the Cougars is WSC Pitcher of the Year Ashley Imperial, who went 15-6 with a 1.78 ERA, as well as multi-faceted Melissa Herndon (12-9 with a 2.80 ERA), who led the conference in batting average in 2009 (.378), and also contributed as a position player at third base and in the outfield. Glendale City College transfer Sarah Biggs will also join the pitching staff for the 2010 season.
“With these three experienced sophomore pitchers maturity is going to be great going into the postseason, without question," Wissmath said.
Stepping up to the plate in leadership is sophomore Jessica Fridwall.
“She is leading the pack. She's our captain and running the show for us," Wissmath praises.
Noting her great work ethic and habits, the coach is sure that she will show growth from this year to last season. Fridwall is also expected to be a big-time contributor in the lineup, along with all eight other starters.
"I love my hitters. I've got so many of them I couldn't even name them all," Wissmath raves.
From athlete Alexis Caso to speedster Stephanie Pena, the coach couldn't be happier with the depth of his team at the plate.
What fires up Coach Wissmath the most is the team's charisma
"You can see it in their eyes that they're eager about getting out there and playing," he acclaims.
The Cougars are especially eager to play the teams that pose the biggest challenges to them, like 2009 State Champion Cerritos College, Mt. SAC, Cypress College, and East L.A., to whom the Cougars lost by one run twice during the 2009 season.
"If we play up to our level, there is no question that we could be right there in the top five," Wissmath said. "We need to play game to game and keep people healthy. With the chemistry and the consistency, we're going to be doing pretty well this year. They hardly need me right now. They're ready to go."