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Pioneer Valley softball team seniors get a drive-through parade
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Pioneer Valley softball team seniors get a drive-through parade

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no formal Senior Day for the seven seniors on the Pioneer Valley High School softball team this year.

Pioneer Valley coach Kristina Sewell saw to it that her seven seniors got some recognition anyway.

Wednesday night, she gave each of the seven their own drive through parade at each of their homes. The seven seniors on the Pioneer Valley softball squad are Leticia Perez, Serenity O'Nan, Monique Gomez, Lisette Guzman, Breanna Galaites, Gizelle Melero and Amanda Casares.

"I was under the understanding that there would be," some sort of impromptu ceremony, said Perez.

"I did not expect there to be a bunch of cars and smokebombs. There was a poster board and a bottle with dirt from the (Pioneer Valley) infield and a bunch of little snacks. There was also a note from our coach, and a bag with a softball in it." 

"I kind of figured they would do that because they told us to dress nice," for the Wednesday evening impromptu Wednesday night ceremony, said Gomez.

"It was really nice that they did this."

O'Nan said, "Oh, I knew something was happening. I just didn't know WHAT was happening.

"The way it happened was a complete surprise."

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the rest of the spring sports season statewide in March. On April 3, the CIF state office formally announced that all post-season spring sports events were cancelled.

The last sports events on the Central Coast took place March 13. The Panthers were sitting at 2-3 when the rest of their was scrubbed.

Gomez has committed to play softball at NAIA Dakota Wesleyan. Dakota Wesleyan is based in Mitchell, South Dakota.

She earned the Randall Scholarship there. To qualify, a student must carry a 3.5 GPA, have scored a 24 on the ACT and a 1,090 on the SAT and "must meet certain leadership/service qualifications," according to a university statement.

Gomez seemed confident that Dakota Wesleyan will start on time, on Aug. 21, with its 2020 fall semester.

"Most of South Dakota is not in quarantine any more,"  she said.

She was a four-year varsity starter at second base and shortstop for the Panthers. Gomez said she will play second base at Dakota Wesleyan.

O'Nan, another four-year varsity player at Pioneer Valley, said she has committed to play softball at Orange Coast College.

"I played third baseman-catcher at Pioneer Valley," she said. "I'll be the starting catcher at Orange Coast College."

For the 2020 fall semester, "Our fall lecture classes are going to be online and our labs will be in person."

As for the Pirates' individual workouts, "We're expected to hit, throw and do cardio workouts," said O'Nan.

With schools closed since March, she has adapted to online learning but, "I would rather be in class, with the type of learner I am," said O'Nan.

Perez said she had originally planned to play for Hancock College but, "I changed my mind. I just want to focus on academics."

As for distance learning, "I've adapted to it," said Perez. "I have a bunch of siblings to keep me company at home." 

Guzman and Galaites were both four-year varsity players for the Panthers. Perez was a three-year varsity player. Casares joined the varsity this season. Melero played on the varsity in 2018 and 2020.

Senior Spotlight Series: Celebrating the area's top senior student-athletes

Our 'Senior Spotlight' series is aimed at highlighting senior student-athletes who have had their final year of high school disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The athletes featured here were their school's nominee for Athlete of the Year or Student Athlete of the Year for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's end-of-year banquet that has been canceled due to the outbreak.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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