Spring sports schedule interrupted for community colleges as well

Alexia Sandoval winds up to pitch in a game last season for Hilltop prior to joining this year's Southwestern College team. Photo by Phillip Brents

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic hasn’t just affected high school, major college and professional sports. It’s also put a hold on the community college spring sports season.

Due to health concerns over COVID-19, the California Community College Athletic Association Board of Directors voted March 12 to immediately postpone practices outside of regularly scheduled classes, and competition for all spring sports, as well as any and all non-traditional sports seasons, indefinitely.

Keith Curry, Chair of the Board of Directors, said in a statement that it “was important that we look out for the well-being of our student-athletes.”

Stronger measures were to come.

The CCCAA, which oversees and governs athletics for 109 member institutions, officially cancelled all spring competition on March 19 after cancelling its men’s and women’s state championship basketball games scheduled March 13-15 at West Hills College in Lemore.

The state organization had been hoping to return to competition but with campuses throughout the state closed, most classes transitioning to online distance learning, and with the uncertainty about when conditions would improve, the Board of Directors felt it had no choice but to cancel the spring sports season.

“We regret the effect this has on our outstanding student-athletes and the hard work and dedication they’ve invested in their seasons,” CCCAA Interim Executive Director Jennifer Cardone said. “However, we feel it’s in the best interest of our student-athletes to take this action.

“College athletics are facing unprecedented circumstances and we are doing our best to address the concerns that have come about as a result. Undoubtedly, it’s a challenging time but student-athletes are at the center of our focus as well as what’s in the best interest of our institutions.”

Eight community colleges were affected in San Diego County: Southwestern College, Grossmont College, Cuyamaca College, San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, San Diego Miramar College, MiraCosta College and Palomar College.

All schools are members of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference along with Crafton Hills in Yucaipa (for aquatics) and Imperial Valley College (in softball and baseball).

Like many of their prep and major college counterparts, several spring sports at Southwestern College saw promising seasons abruptly come to a close.

The Lady Jaguars softball team had engineering one of its best starts in years — 5-1 in the month of January — en route to posting a 12-8 overall record, 2-2 in conference play, when the season was prematurely halted.

Freshman catcher Samantha Green earned selection as a CCCFCA Co-Player of the Week as a result of the team’s strong start.

Green, who attended Valhalla High School, went 7-for-13 (.531 hitting average) with a pair of doubles, two triples and two stolen bases during the opening two weeks of the 2020 season.

At the time of her award, she was hitting .514 with a 1.026 slugging percentage.

The Lady Jags had scored 128 runs in 20 games with a ferocious .348 team batting average and had slammed eight home runs. The team still had 19 regular season games remaining on its schedule when the season was cancelled.

Top individual performers for SWC included Green with a .563 hitting average (with 12 doubles, four home runs, 14 stolen bases and 19 RBI) and sophomores Kianna Knoll (Clairemont) with a .457 hitting average (with 15 RBI), Breanna Simmons (Olympian) with a .442 average (with three home runs, 20 RBI) and Erika Anders (Clairemont) with a .360 average (with 11 stolen bases and seven RBI).

Three freshmen followed on the team’s offensive leaderboard: Amanda Whipple (Steele Canyon) with a .346 average, Rebecca Romero (Mar Vista) with a .326 average and Natalia Ojeda (Otay Ranch) with a .322 average (with 12 RBI).

Also ranking among the team leaders were sophomore Jackie Kamery (Junipero Serra) with a .308 average and freshman Alexia Sandoval (Hilltop) with a .298 average (with 11 RBI).

Knoll was 3-0 in the pitching circle in nine appearances while Kamery was 6-7 with a 2.20 earned-run average in 16 appearances. Sandoval was 3-1 in nine appearances.

At the schedule pause, Palomar led the PCAC standings with a 4-0 conference record and was 16-3 overall while Mesa was 3-1 in conference play, 13-7 overall. Grossmont followed Southwestern with a 1-3 conference record and was 12-6 overall.

It looked to be a highly competitive race for this year’s PCAC championship.

The SWC baseball team was 11-9 overall, 2-3 in conference play, when the CCCAA shut down the season.

Top performers included freshman Colin Ruthenberg (University City) with a .462 hitting average, followed by classmates Andres Contreras (Olympian) with a .391 average (with six RBI) and Isaac Almendarez (Bonita Vista) with a .355 average (with six RBI).

Sophomore Ryan Major (Hilltop) was hitting .347 with nine RBI, followed by classmate Jake Borst (Mar Vista) at .316 with two home runs and a team-leading 15 RBI.

Freshman Adrian Hinojosa (Eastlake) was hitting .304 with two home runs and nine RBI, followed by sophomore Gavin Mestas (Durango, Colo.) at .300 with eight RBI.

Sophomore Evan Moreno (Hilltop) was 2-0 on the mound with a 3.60 ERA while freshman Dylan Miller (Coronado) was 3-2 with 28 strikeouts in 38.1 innings.

Sophomore Octavio Sanchez (Eastlake) was 2-2 on the hill with a 1.47 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 18.1 innings while freshman Riley O’Sullivan (Valhalla) was 2-3 on the mound with a 4.25 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 36 innings.

Southwestern College was set to host the PCAC swimming championships last weekend on campus.

The Jaguars did host the second of three PCAC invitationals on March 6 with 32 events contested between the men and women’s teams.

But the Chaffey Invitational, scheduled March 13-14, was cancelled, as was all subsequent competitions.

The state championship meet was scheduled April 20 through May 2.

The SWC track and field team also had its season prematurely cut short.

While the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season has met with huge disappointment, the state governing board has worked to minimize the impact of student-athlete eligibility for the CCCAA as well as the four-year college level.

The board subsequently voted that nearly 9,500 student-athletes who competed this spring will have their season of competition restored provided they had not quit or been cut from their teams prior to the seasons being postponed by the CCCAA.

The restoration only applies to the student-athletes’ status within the CCCAA.

The NCAA, NAIA and other collegiate governing bodies are currently addressing similar issues concerning eligibility extension. The CCCAA said it will continue to work with those organizations to help student-athletes who wish to eventually transfer.

But that’s now a year off and it’s likely the coronavirus will still be affecting society until a vaccine is finally available to end its deadly rampage throughout not only the United States but the entire planet.

The numbers are immediately sobering — and staggering. As of April 20, more than 824,000 individuals in the United States had contracted the virus and more than 45,000 had died. The total is approaching 31,000 cases in California with more than 1,200 fatalities.

In San Diego County, the numbers hit closer to home with more than 2,300 cases and 72 deaths.

The virus has penetrated Chula Vista and El Cajon and seemingly all points between and outside those two cities as it searches for new victims.

More than 2.5 million people have contracted the virus on a global scale with more than 177,200 deaths.

A slow transition back to a sense of normalcy with the reopening of the economy appears inevitable but leading health experts are predicting new upticks in cases as people come out of self-isolation and begin to mix once again.

It’s unclear what these challenging times hold but few can dispute the logic that led to the decision to cancel the spring sports season.