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Gilroy
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November 28, 2021

Building blocks

Gavilan softball program on the upswing with upgrades to
facility, Nicholson on the mound.
GILROY – Building a program, not to mention an upgraded facility, seem to be within the grasp of Gavilan College’s second-year head softball coach Tim Kenworthy.

After failing to field a women’s softball team in the spring of 2001, Gavilan tabbed Kenworthy, a product of high school and club softball programs, to return the Rams to the position of Coast Conference dominance. His first team collected eight wins in 2002. Having had one full year to recruit and to fashion his own style of a program, Kenworthy can envision double-figure wins this spring.

The softball facility at the school is undergoing as remarkable a make-over. Any softball enthusiast who has not visited the softball site in the past six months should be amazed at the changes produced through the efforts of the coaches, the college staff and interested local businesses and individuals.

“We have professional dugouts, 30-feet long and covered,” said Kenworthy of the most apparent upgrade. “The infield is red soil that plays well and drains well. The storage facility for gear enables us to not waste practice time. The batting cage is ready. We’re getting ready for a fund-raiser to obtain nets for the cages.”

Kenworthy and Athletic Director Ron Hannon know that, without extensive assistance from outside sources, the facility would not have become reality for this season.

“It’s neat that this bond between the community and the softball program occurred,” said Kenworthy. “We are so thankful, so impressed, with the people of this community and with the individuals who gave of their time and labor. We knew it would be difficult because of the economic times. Granite Rock, Johnson Lumber in Morgan Hill, Tim Fellows Construction, Calpine Energy and Giacalone Electric, among others, were so helpful.”

Once that site improvement, tabbed at approximately $60,000, was realized, one of the immediate benefits was a renewal of interest in the women’s program. Several players enrolled at Gavilan for the spring semester and gave Kenworthy’s staff a reasonable chance at a winning record as well as competitive games in the rugged Coast Conference.

“We put a team together last year that was very inexperienced,” said Kenworthy. “I was hired late and had little time to recruit. We did okay, established a foundation and are moving forward. I think there’s a correlation between the facility and the program. Now I receive calls from parents about the program and interest in having their daughters come to Gavilan to play softball. That’s very satisfying.”

Kristina Denton, the starting catcher for the Rams, was a late arrival in the spring semester. Denton, along with her younger sister Stephanie, attended Long Beach State last year. After Kristina spent last fall in Spain as a foreign exchange student, she returned to San Benito County and then decided to enroll in the local community college.

Despite re-tooling the program with the addition of a half-dozen new players in January, Kenworthy has directed the team to a 5-8 record as conference play began last week.

The Rams play in the Southern Division of the Coast Conference. West Valley, the defending state champion, is in the South Division.

Gavilan has four tournaments sprinkled among the 50-game schedule, a way to have the players compete in other areas of the state while having four-year college coaches possibly call on the Rams with scholarship offers.

“Defense is one of our strengths,” Kenworthy said when reviewing the team’s potential. “We have above-average speed. We’re especially strong on the left side of the infield.”

Shortstop Michelle Alvernaz, all-Monterey Bay League at that position last spring, “is the main cog in our wheel,” Kenworthy said of his infield leader. “Michelle’s steady, intelligent, and keeps the infield together with her play.”

Tabbed at third base is another freshman, Melissa Almaguer out of San Benito High.

“Melissa’s quick coming in on bunts,” said the head coach. “She doesn’t care how hard the ball’s hit, she welcomes the hard-hit balls. She’s turned in several double plays.”

Shelby Brown, the team’s leftfielder, has extensive experience at that position after four years as a starter in left for San Benito High. “She gets a good jump on the ball,” said Kenworthy. “She’s made four diving catches in the first 13 games and has thrown a couple of runners out at the plate. She has a strong, accurate arm.”

Nani Morales, one of the players who joined the program for the spring semester, patrols centerfield for Gavilan. The team’s only switch-hitter, the San Benito graduate utilizes her speed and quickness in the outfield and as a lead-off hitter.

Kenworthy has several Rams sharing rightfield duties. Sara Shepherd, Colleen Brown and Angelia Guglielmo give the coaches options in the field and in the line-up depending on the opposition. Lindsey Cook, also a pitcher, gives Kenworthy outfield versatility because she plays all three positions.

Leann Batinovich, who played three years of varsity softball at North Monterey County, is penciled in at second base for the Rams. “Leann has great lateral movement and a consistent arm,” Kenworthy said. A good bunter, Batinovich often bats second.

First base is not set, in part because two of the possibilities, Stephanie Denton and Melissa Nicholson, share the majority of the pitching responsibilities. Shepherd and Brown also have worked out at first base.

Kristina Denton “is steady and calls a good game,” Kenworthy said of the starting catcher. “He has a quick release, her arm’s getting stronger every day, and she’s become better at blocking balls. Offensively, she’s been hitting the ball hard. She was seventh in the order, then fifth, now third.”

Nicholson, a left-hander who is the team’s lone sophomore, and Stephanie Denton each have recorded a shut-out this season. “Both have to work on changing speeds and location, but they are both capable of winning, depending on whether they are on or not,” Kenworthy said.

“We spent the pre-season experimenting because so many came out for spring semester,” Kenworthy said. “We looked at a variety of line-ups. We’re at a point now where I know where people of going to play. I also know that the attitude’s been great and this is a fun teach to coach.”

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