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Greener (and gold) pastures
Sperry, Jaquez fulfill commitments to Sacramento State, Humboldt State
SB--Ripon signings pic 1
Ripon softball head coach Robert Vernon, top row from left, athletic director Chris Johnson and principal Lance Morrow look on as Taylor Jaquez (Humboldt State) and Danielle Sperry (Sacramento State) sign their National Letters of Intent on Thursday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

RIPON — Danielle Sperry and Taylor Jaquez have been added to a growing list of Ripon softball players who have moved on to play at the next level.

They signed their letters of intent at the North Gym on Thursday. Sperry is taking her pitching talents to NCAA Division I Sacramento State, and outfielder Jaquez heads to Humboldt State, one of the top D2 programs in the West. Both verbally committed early in their junior year.

 “It sets the tone,” Sperry said. “All the other girls are thinking, ‘If they’re getting to go somewhere than I can go somewhere, too.’ It sets the standard for everybody else.”

Robert Vernon has now coached eight players in the last four years who have signed to four-year universities out of high school. Last year, middle infielder Darian van der Maaten inked with UC San Diego. Vernon anticipates more will sign in the coming years.

“I think that we’ve come a long ways,” Jaquez said. “The program has been progressing and we have a good coach.”

Sac State and Humboldt State are getting proven winners in these Indians, who helped the program reach a Sac-Joaquin Section final for the first time in 2015. They handed Trans-Valley League rival Hughson its first loss of the season and forced a winner-take-all Division V final won by the five-time champion Huskies.

“We came so close last year,” Sperry said. “I want to win sections this year.”

The two-time TVL Pitcher of the Year twice outdueled Oregon State commit Nerissa Long in wins over Bear River in the postseason. Sperry finished 21-5 with a 0.92 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings. She’ll join a Sac State program that has at least 20 victories in each of the last 13 years. She’s looking forward to competing at the NCAA Division I level. The Hornets went 28-26 last season, which ended in the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game. They were led by former Escalon standout pitcher Caitlin Brooks, an all-Pacific Region third-team selection.

“The coach (Lori Perez) has very high standards,” Sperry said. “It makes it more exciting to play for someone who wants it, too.”

Jaquez, who hit .306 with five triples her junior year, fell in love with the small-town, “outdoorsy” feel to the city of Arcata and Humboldt County. She’ll also be part of a team that has enjoyed recent success.

Humboldt State, 42-19 last year, was ranked 16th among NCAA Division II schools in the nation before getting knocked out of the West Regional. The Lumberjacks have advanced to the West Regional three consecutive seasons and won the tournament in 2013.

Jaquez and Sperry met through softball during their days with the Ripon Babe Ruth organization. They’ve been good friends since and are intent in enjoying their final months together as classmates and teammates.

 “I just want to enjoy every game and not leave anything for granted,” Jaquez said. “The high school season goes by very fast, so I want to have fun in my last year.”