SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In the first year of West Coast Conference softball, Santa Clara softball continued to move in the right direction with several big performances. Santa Clara swept LMU on the road in a three-game series and went into the final weekend of the season with a chance to finish second in the conference. Perhaps the most thrilling moment of the season was the walk-off 1-0 win vs. Fresno State on April 17.
"There were a lot of positives throughout this season," said Santa Clara head coach Lisa Mize. "We were really competitive and had a lot of close games. We also improved as the season went on and beat some good teams. We're heading in the right direction with some great recruits coming in and overall it was a great building year for us."
The Broncos played five teams that made the NCAA Tournament, including two teams that made it to the Women's College World Series in defending national champion Oklahoma and Kentucky.
For the first time in program history, Santa Clara had four players honored by its conference after the season. Stephanie Fisher, Kelly Scribner, and Breezy Bernard were all First Team All-WCC selections while Ciara Gonzales was Honorable Mention. Scribner was also named Defensive Player of the Year with a .992 fielding percentage at first base in 394 total chances.
"Having four players honored in a tough WCC goes to show the hard work this team has put in," said Mize. "They really bought into what we're doing to improve the program. Stephanie and Kelly really shined in their senior seasons and showed great leadership. Kelly's award is a great testament to her hard work. She made a lot of game-saving plays that don't show up on paper and a lot of the coaches around the league mentioned how good she was."
Fisher led the Broncos in most offensive categories including average (.362, fourth in the WCC), hits (50 T-fifth in the WCC), at-bats (138), runs (22), doubles (10 T-fourth in the WCC), triples (2), slugging percentage (.594, second in the WCC), and on-base percentage (.399, sixth in the WCC) while being just one of two Santa Clara players to appear in every game. She hit for the first cycle in program and WCC history on April 15 at Cal and was named WCC Player of the week for her accomplishments. Fisher also moved into the top-10 in many career categories in the Santa Clara record book including batting average (.330, third), hits (178, fourth), runs scored (82, tied-fifth), doubles (38, second), slugging percentage (.491, third), and OBP (.392, third).
Scribner, the only Bronco to start all 44 games, hit .302 (38-126) and led the Broncos with eight home runs while placing third in the conference in bombs. Her total was also tied for fourth-most in a single season in Santa Clara history She was second on the team in runs scored with 16 and slugging percentage with a .571 mark, which was good for third in the conference. Scribner added a team-best 13 walks and had 19 RBI while tying for the team lead with 10 doubles, fourth in the WCC.
Bernard hit .310 (36-116) with six doubles, six runs scored, and six RBI. Geenamarie Bonilla had a team-best 25 RBI while batting .266 (29-109) with 10 runs scored. Bonilla added one triple and five doubles.
"We put a lot of work into fixing the players' swings but they really got confident as the year went on," said Mize. "They recognized that they can hit and built on that confidence. Towards the end of the year they really showed that improvement."
Gonzales led Santa Clara pitchers in ERA (3.25), wins (5), appearances (38, second in the WCC), starts (22, fifth in the WCC), complete games (12), shutouts (2), innings pitched (161.2, fourth in the WCC), strikeouts (36), and saves (1). Gonzales was also second in the WCC with 15 games finished. Jessica Turner added 74.0 innings pitched over 23 appearances. Turner started 11 games and tossed three complete games while picking up four wins. Brianna Rios also saw time on the mound, making 19 appearances, including seven starts. Rios threw 41.1 innings and struck out 23 while picking up a win.
"Having Ciara step up was huge for us," said Mize. "It was important for us to have that go-to pitcher when we needed it. She really showed improvement this year and it was a great learning year for her. We expect her to just keep getting better."
Despite graduating their two biggest hitters, Santa Clara knows the future is bright for the softball program.
"Ellie Fisher was a top recruit who was highly sought after," said Mize. "She can be a true leadoff hitter that gives us an element of speed that I think we're missing. Having three pitchers come in gives us pitching depth, which is great. They each bring something different and if they can catch up the collegiate level of play, they'll keep us in ballgames. We have the potential to have a really great year next year."