The Coronavirus may have put the brakes on the Hornets’ stellar start to the 2020 softball season, but it sure hasn’t prevented players like sophomores Sarah Rengifo and Khloe Lilavois from pursuing their dreams to playing in the future for a university. Both girls are staying in shape the best they can due to the current limitations regarding the closure of all gym facilities throughout the state and both girls had been in contact with several universities prior to the season cancelation.
Rengifo, the right-handed second baseman from Jurupa Valley, Calif., has been leaning towards making a decision to play at Cal State San Bernardino in the 2021 softball season as opposed to taking advantage of another year of eligibility to play as a sophomore at Fullerton College granted by the CCCAA.
In addition to Cal State San Bernardino, Westcliff University and Azusa Pacific have reached out to Rengifo offering her a spot on their rosters in the next coming season. With all the offers to play for a four-year school, Rengifo was adamant about how she wanted to make the best financial decision before impulsively picking a university to attend.
“As long as I’m playing and getting my education paid for, that’s all that matters,” she stated. “I just have a couple of weeks to talk to them and see what happens with them moneywise.”
Rengifo would have preferred to finish her sophomore season in a Hornets uniform with the close friends she’s made over the years, so to better deal with reality, she and her teammates have constantly been calling each other to stay in contact during this period of self-quarantine.
“We’ve been talking almost every day,” she insisted. “We always text, say we miss each other and wish we could be on the field one last time. Coaches had always told us to practice every practice and play the game like it’s your last.”
Up until the last game, Rengifo had an incredible season; she batted .367 in the 16 games that she played, scored 11 runs, had 13 RBI and held a fielding percentage of .925. Out of the 18 hits she had, five of them were doubles, one was a triple and she hit one home run.
Lilavois, who either played first or third base throughout the year, had a season worth noting as well having a .413 batting average, a .989 fielding percentage, ten RBI and stole four bases in the 18 games she played. Out of her 26 hits, she had two doubles, two triples and two home runs.
Lilavois has stayed active during this downtime in college athletics by choosing to stay within the confines of her neighborhood to exercise regularly and keep in shape. Despite her choice to stay active and limit her contact with the outside world, she finds the reality of practicing by herself emotionally unsettling.
“The downtime is really hard not to be able to go to the field with my teammates, practice and have fun,” she stated. “It’s understandable being home and not able to go out due to the virus. We hope it doesn’t spread more, so we’re not quarantined longer.”
Westcliff University and Cal State San Bernardino have also shown interest in Lilavois offering for her to play with them next season. It is unknown whether the two friends, Rengifo and Lilavois, will attempt to transfer together in an attempt to continue their camaraderie on the field.
If there’s one person that’s the most disappointed in the cancelation of the Hornets’ season, its Head Coach Speedy Mendoza.
“We were almost halfway through and I think we were starting to get on a roll as well,” lamented Mendoza. “The girls started playing better in the last four games; we had four consecutive wins.”
This season, the Hornets would have been defending their title from last season’s playoffs after winning fifth in the state.
“We were right up there with the best teams and our RPI was very high,” insisted Mendoza. “We were getting to playoffs with all four of our pitchers (Jessica Lopez, Haylee Enriquez, Nicole Gonzalez and Hanna Pionke) getting better.”
The Hornets had a 12 – 6 overall record after placing fourth in the Orange Empire Conference with a 5 -3 record behind Saddleback College. Saddleback also has a 5 – 3 conference record this season but placed higher than Fullerton as a result of two extra games that Saddleback played.
Even with the disappointing news that the Hornets will not continue with the 2020 season, there are good signs of a triumphant return for the 2021 softball season.