June 25, 2012

Leaving a Legacy

Published in the Bronco Sports Magazine

By, Nick Mirkovich

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -
On the first of April in 2012, an upstart Santa Clara softball team stunned perennial Pacific Coast Softball Conference champions Loyola Marymount. The Broncos erased a seven-run deficit by scoring nine straight runs in the sixth inning, capped off with Briana Knight's second homerun of the rally, a go-ahead three-run shot over the left-field fence.

Knight's heroics set off an extended celebration for an underdog team nobody thought could compete with the preseason favorites in Los Angeles.

"I remember it was a 3-and-2 count with two outs and there were runners on," said Knight, whose two-run homer earlier in the inning had made it 7-2. After her teammates continued the rally, she came up again with SCU trailing 7-6. "I fouled off two balls because I had started guessing, expecting changeup or something off-speed. Instead, I stepped out and said 'I am not going down, you're going to see it and you're going to hit it.' Sure enough she threw me an inside pitch and I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it."

The victory and split of the series that weekend, was significant in a number of ways for Santa Clara. As Knight puts it: "We've had to work for everything we have gotten. That is really why wins like that, especially against people that everyone says you can't beat, are almost a chance for us to gain respect for ourselves."

As any recent SCU softball alumna will tell you, playing at Santa Clara has been challenging. And nothing has been more difficult than the absence of an on-campus facility to call home. During Knight's four-year career the Broncos have played 'home' games all over the Bay Area, at local junior colleges, rec fields, just about anywhere that could host a weekend tournament or a midweek doubleheader.

Practices were held at Bellomy Field, where the field was in such disrepair that cones were placed in the outfield to warn players of sprinkler heads and large holes.

But, things are about to change. Construction of a brand new softball facility is underway on the Mission Campus. The old backstop and shed at Bellomy Field are coming down and will be replaced with a state-of-the-art playing surface that will serve as the future home of SCU softball.   

Knight's career and the legacy her teammates have left behind is a testament to their resolve. Knight will go down in the record books as one of the best power-hitters to ever play at Santa Clara, finishing her SCU career No. 2 all-time in both homeruns (30) and RBI (109). The 2012 campaign, highlighted by that memorable afternoon at LMU, was the team's best season since 2007.

"I'm not going to lie, we're jealous," said Knight speaking for her and past teammates that won't get the chance to play on the new field. "But I am most excited for all the softball women that will come through the program now and get the opportunity to get what they deserve for all their hard work, gain the respect from their opponents, the softball community and, PCSC people.  They will play a lot better because I feel that home field advantage is huge, while also having the means to be able to practice like you need to."

The SCU roster has been transformed by fourth-year head coach Lisa Mize during Knight's career. Mize brought in seven freshmen in 2011 and 10 new players in 2012. Mize called Knight, her senior co-captain, a 'true leader' following that win at LMU. 

"She's been inspirational," said Mize. "She is a positive, happy kid, but when it's game time and, she puts her game face on, she's as intense of a player as you want. Especially with a building program, to come in time and time again and be that inspiration and to be so well respected by the team; it's been special for us."

For more information on the softball facility contact Fred Smith at FKSmith@scu.edu.