Local players are key to WNC softball future
Nevada Appeal News Service
If an area high school softball team were to stop by Centennial Park today, odds are they would recognize just about every player on the Western Nevada College roster.
The first-year softball program, which will play the College of Southern Nevada in a doubleheader at 1 p.m., has 10 players representing six area high schools, not including another three who come from Las Vegas schools.
The local feel to the Wildcats roster isn’t by accident. When the team was assembled during last summer, former coach Dick Allen and current coach Scott Rasner wanted to make WNC a landing pad for the emerging softball talent in the area.
“I think we’re definitely going to get more locals interested in coming here now that they know were here and that we’re trying to attract the locals to come here and play,” Rasner said. “They’ll be able to stay home. Each year, as the girls grow up, they’ll know we’re here and be striving to come to our place instead of always having to look elsewhere.”
Softball has been one of the hottest sports in the area recently. Just last year five Spanish Springs High players committed to Division I schools and the University of Nevada softball team, which was ranked as high as 17th in the country earlier this season, has seven locals on its roster.
Wildcats catcher Devin Steelman graduated from Spanish Springs in 2006 and saw WNC as an opportunity too good to pass up.
“I think Northern Nevada is a great place for softball, but it doesn’t get recognized,” Steelman said. “This really gives it a chance to grow and get girls interested to keep playing when they want to play.
“It’s hard for a girl to get a scholarship to play softball, but this is definitely an opportunity to keep going to school and have fun.”
The program has definitely had its woes early on. Allen, who is the winningest high school softball coach in Nevada with 506 wins, left for family reasons before ever coaching a game. The Wildcats split their first two series of the year, going 4-4, before losing their last eight.
Kelsie Fahr, a freshman infielder, said during the fall season the team was divided and didn’t really know each other very well, but are using their free time to get to know each other better in the hopes that it will pay off on the field.
“We’re starting to hang out a lot as a team and starting to come together as a team,” Fahr said. “It’s a lot better than it used to be. We’re not so separated, I think there’s still cliques, but everyone hangs out together and we mesh better as a team.
“We’ve been playing better together the last couple of weekends so I think it’s all coming together.”
The softball team is trying to reach the same success as the baseball program, which has already made an appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series. But it is also trying to avoid the fate of the short-lived soccer team. The soccer program last just three years before having to disband after most of the Scenic West Athletic Conference teams cut soccer and it couldn’t complete their schedule.
Rasner said he is committed to making the program work because he wants more locals to be able to use it as a means get to Division I. The road to conintued viability for the softball team could be difficult, largely because it and the baseball programs are self-sufficient, not relying on state funds to keep them afloat.
Funding for both the softball and baseball teams come through fundraisers and donations. One of the programs it has tried to initiate is what it calls the Spartan 300. The title of the program comes from the movie, “300,” but has nothing to do with sword-swinging warriors. Instead it is aimed it recruiting 300 donors, who would all give $100 a month to the college for five years. It would make the programs completely self-sufficient and not have to accrue any debt in the meantime, Rasner said.
There are about 50 donors in the program so far. It could potentially bring in $360,000 a year.
“If we got that we wouldn’t have to bang (doors) or anything like that,” said Rasner, who has coached baseball in the area for 21 years. “We wouldn’t have to go to people and say, ‘Give us, give us,’ because instead of coming up with a chunk of change to give us, they’re giving us $100 a month.”
So if the program is to have success, it is dependent largely on locals, both on the field and financially. And for Fahr, when it becomes a winning program it will be her fingerprint on it.
“It will be a great feeling looking back, say we get to the World Series, and say, ‘Hey, I was on that team when I was younger,'” Fahr said. “Telling my kids that I was part of a beginning program that turned into being a winning program.”