As the new coach of the Gavilan College softball team, Bobby Reggiani knows he faces an uphill climb to turn the Rams into a winner on the field. The Rams’ last winning season came in 2014, but since then the team has averaged just below nine victories per season. It’s a task Reggiani said he’s up for.
“I want to get it to the point where the girls around the area say, ‘Yeah, I want to play softball at Gavilan,'” said Reggiani, who was hired as the new Gavilan coach three weeks ago. “A lot of times they (high school players who plan to play community college softball) don’t want to stay in town. So they’ll go to San Jose City or another junior college. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m up to it and just want to see these girls succeed and have them eventually get to the point where they say, ‘Hey, I want to play at Gav.'”
If numbers are any indication, the Rams are on their way to stamping themselves as a major factor in the community college landscape. Reggiani said he already has nine recruits committed to play for the program next season—he’s also working on a couple more—while also having several returning sophomores in the fold. Increased numbers play a critical role in that it creates a dynamic, thriving and competitive atmosphere.
“The last two years we’ve had the bare minimum number of girls (to field a program), and it’s hard to get them motivated sometimes if there is no one to push them,” he said. “The more girls in the program, the more energy you’ll see. I’ve already had a meeting with the returners and they’re already excited about seeing some new girls coming in and the team we can have.”
Some of the top players projected to return next season include Noel Chavarria, Brooke Siaz and Liezl Clark. All three players prepped locally and are an embodiment of the Gavilan program in that the majority of the roster features homegrown, local players. Chavarria, a centerfielder from San Benito High, had a terrific freshman season, especially defensively.
“She was one of the top defensive center fielders in the league this past year,” Reggiani said. “She saved a lot of runs for us covering a lot of range in that outfield.”
Clark, who is from Gilroy and can play multiple positions in the infield including catcher, was a second team all-conference player in 2019 and hit .325 in Coast Conference South Division play while leading the team in home runs. Siaz, who is from Prunedale and prepped at North Salinas High, earned Coast Conference First Team honors this past season as a utility player.
Siaz started most of the team’s games and did a solid job, all the more impressive considering shortstop and the infield are her natural positions. Reggiani hopes he’ll be able to move Siaz to the infield next season, which would make the Rams a more formidable team. Clark is pumped that Reggiani has taken over the reins of the program.
“I’m really excited knowing a big change is going to happen when we come back next season,” she said. “I’ve known Bobby for a while because he coached my sister’s travel ball team since she was around 10 years old, so he’s been around our family a lot. I really like the type of coach he is because he can talk to you and be straightforward. If you’re doing something wrong, he’ll be straight up with you, and that is how you get better. He’s not one of those coaches who will sit on their butt and will tell you something and yell from the stands. He’s really active as far as what a coach does to help the team be the best it can be.”
Clark has a terrific comeback story. After graduating from Gilroy High in 2017, she spent a year at San Francisco State before transferring to Gavilan after realizing she wanted to change her major. Clark wasn’t even planning on playing softball until Reggiani got in contact with her and told her about the program.
“It really affected my decision of wanting to play again because I didn’t think I would play again after high school,” she said. “But it’s probably been one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve kept my head on straight and it’s motivated me to do well in school. I picked the nursing major program at Gav and figured everything out.”
Clark credited the entire Gavilan support system—especially the academic counselors—for guiding her to a new path without having to clear so many obstacles in the process. On the field, Clark also sees success coming. Even though the Rams went 8-21 overall and 5-10 in conference play last season, they were competitive for the most part despite lacking numbers and having several members of the team playing new positions.
“We had pretty good talent this year, but with the lack of numbers almost every girl on the team had to play a position they didn’t play before and making that transition was tough. But we ended up not doing that bad for what we were given.”
Even though Clark was a captain at Gilroy High, she said being a part of a community college program that is in the midst of an overhaul helped develop additional skills and inner strength.
“Going from a high school that was really involved with the sport and had the numbers and had the coaches and the talent, to going to a team where we needed to build that community and the numbers made me more of a leader than I was in high school,” she said. “When you don’t have everything set out for you and need to set up things for success, it kind of changes your mindset a little bit.”
The Rams will have an eclectic mix of talent coming in next season, spearheaded by athletes who have played softball most of their lives. Yet there will surely be a diamond in the rough similar to Clark’s story, a student-athlete who comes in unsettled about their future but looking—consciously or sub-consciously—for a shot at redemption. Such is the beauty of community college sports.
“Some girls transfer in not knowing what to do, and they have a softball program waiting for them, too,” Clark said.