They’re Sac-Joaquin Section champions and their future for college is already set.
So what is there left to accomplish for these six softball standouts in their final year at Ripon High?
“Probably getting another section title,” Jennica Baldwin said.
Baldwin joined teammates Felicia Ceja, Mikaela Ferreira, Jasmine Parra and twin sisters Hana and Hoku Lee on Wednesday morning for a National Signing Day event held at the North Gym.
Also part of the program’s historic 2015 SJS Division V championship club were pitching ace Danielle Sperry and outfielder Taylor Jaquez, now at Sacramento State and Humboldt State, respectively. The Indians went 22-4 and edged out Linden 7-6 for their first-ever section banner.
More history was made Wednesday, which marked the largest signing class for Ripon softball. Signing Day events have become an annual tradition for the Indians, and reigning Trans-Valley League MVP Mikaela Ferreira said it’s a credit to head coach Robert Vernon. He has built a winning program over the past 10 years, leading it to two TVL titles in the last three seasons.
“Coach Vernon is great,” Ferreira said. “He makes it fun but still keeps the competitive part of the game.”
The St. Mary’s signee hit .481 (.655 in league), four home runs and knocked in a team-high 27 runs, but her biggest contribution is on defense where she was moved to shortstop from third base in her junior season. Ferreira anticipates she’ll play either middle infield spot or third.
Ceja (.485, five HRs, 23 RBIs) is also NCAA Division-I bound with her commitment to San Jose State fulfilled. The corner outfielder batted clean-up behind Ferreira last year; forming a devastating tandem Vernon affectionately calls the “Bash Sisters.”
Baldwin, who plays first base and catcher, will be joining them in the Bay Area after signing with Notre Dame de Namur of Belmont. Travel-ball teammate Delaney Pamplin, a pitcher for East Union, also signed with the NCAA Division II program.
“We’ve been friends since we were 8 or 9, so it’s really cool,” Baldwin said. “It’s a pretty big weight lifted (after signing). My whole life I’ve wanted to continue my career for a college.”
The versatile Lee sisters — who give Ripon speed and contact-hitting ability at the top of the order — were originally committed to Antelope Valley, a NAIA school out of Palmdale, but decided to go a different direction after the head coach was dismissed. Vernon encouraged them to go the junior college route, and they signed with Delta in Stockton.
“They had tons of coaches from different schools all over them, but I think they can do better than what they were getting offered,” Vernon said. “Playing at Delta, which plays in a very competitive conference, they have a good chance to get noticed by Division I schools.”
Utility player Jasmine Parra will compete at the NCAA Division III level with Occidental College of Los Angeles.
In all, 10 players from last year’s section championship team have either committed, signed or are currently playing at the next level. Vernon said juniors Lillian Dillard (Coppin State) and Shay Furtado (LaSalle) have already committed to NCAA Division I programs.
“I’m just proud of all of them,” Vernon said. “They’re all really deserving. They are great teammates, they work hard and they bring something different to the team. It’s been a pleasure to coach them. They’re the ones who led us to winning a section title.”