First baseman Zaiden Bakke, outfielder Sabrina Ornelas and catcher Ehsya (pronounced Asia) Glidewell gazed out at the re-furbished Hancock College softball field and gleamed.
"It looks awesome," Ornelas, a sophomore and a returning outfielder for the Hancock College softball team, said before practice as she stood on the bright green grass and gazed at the spiffy-looking infield.
"They've re-built everything."
Last Wednesday marked the first time Hancock would practice on its field this season.
The warning track the Hancock field had is no longer there. The outfield is all grass. Ornelas, who coach Scia Maumausolo moved from left field to right before the start of the season, is not sad that the warning track at her home field is no longer there.
Ornelas said that when she felt the crunch of dirt underneath her spikes that signaled the beginning of the warning track, it actually hampered her.
"I'd think, 'Oh, no, the fence is coming soon. Maybe I'll step on a rock.' I like it better this way," with grass all the way up to the fence.
Tenth-year Hancock coach Maumausolo's squad is off to a 2-1 start. The Bulldogs have just three returning starters from last year; first baseman Baake, Ornelas and center fielder Crystal Gonzalez. Baake and Gonzalez were the team's top two hitters last year.
Hancock is scheduled to host Riverside today at 1 p.m.
While the Hancock field underwent the renovation, Maumausolo said her team prepped for the 2019 season mainly at the On Deck 2 batting cages at the Town Center Mall.
"We owe a big 'thank you,' to them," said Maumausolo. Hancock assistant coach Jason Contreras said he manages the On Deck 2 batting cages.
Mamausolo said her team also spent some practice time at the Hagerman softball complex.
Ornelas and Bakke said the biggest adjustment to college softball for them last year was actually off the field.
"The study time. THAT was the biggest adjustment from high school to junior college," Ornelas said. Bakke nodded in agreement.
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"After practice, it was straight to homework," said Ornelas. "People would ask 'Where's Sabrina?' (The answer would be) 'She's in the library. She's reading. I love to read.'"
Bakke graduated from Pleasant Valley High School in Chico. She said life in Chico is getting back to normal after people who were displaced from the Camp Fire that wiped out Paradise last fall flocked there to find shelter.
"My family members lost four houses there," Bakke said. "They all got out, though."
Bakke raved about what she called a recent "team bonding," event.
"We spent three days and two nights at Pismo Beach," she said. "As if this team couldn't get any closer, we did get closer at this event. I am so ready for this season, with these awesome girls.
"The sophomores on this team are so looking forward to passing on advice to the freshman, not just about how to succeed in softball but what they will need to help them succeed in life," said Bakke.
Ehsya Glidewell played for the Santa Maria High School varsity for the past four years, the last three of those with her sister, Xchelle Glidewell.
"I started out at shortstop in youth ball," Ehsya Glidewell said. "When I was at Santa Maria, I moved all over. I played shortstop, catcher, I pitched some.
"My senior year I was mostly at catcher, so the transition to college ball was easier that way."
Hancock's pitching staff from last year graduated. Maumausolo said her pitchers this year are freshmen Shaylyn Coy and Alexis Porter.
"I think they'll definitely be ready," to have a solid conference campaign, said Maumausolo. The Bulldogs will open conference play at home at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 26 against Santa Barbara City College.
For now, Maumausolo says her starting battery consists of Coy or Porter on the mound and Ehsya Glidewell at catcher.
The infield consists of Bakke at first base, Jayden Andrade at second, Ariana Pacheco at shortstop and Natalya Fuggs at third base.
The outfielders are Siana Castillo in left field, Crystal Gonzalez in center and Ornelas in right.