Forget that the National Junior College Athletic Association cancelled the remainder of spring play.
By the season's early end, San Jacinto College Softball Head Coach Kelly Saenz and her team had proven they were a force to contend with.
'Nothing but a bright future'
Starting the season unranked, the San Jac squad finished No. 15 in the NJCAA ranking. During their run, players beat the No. 1 preseason-ranked team and split with the No. 5 team.
"These girls came together as a team and pushed each other to be better every day. They never gave up in any game or practice," Saenz said. "Academically, they were also one of our strongest teams, working hard in the classroom as well."
The team ended with a 19-4 record, three players named to the Region XIV all-academic team, and the highest team batting average in San Jac softball history.
"For the entire group of girls, I see nothing but a bright future," Saenz said. "They will succeed in everything they do."
Saenz also notched her 600th career win on home field Feb. 19 in an 8-7 nail-biter against Temple College.
After the first game ended 10-1 against Temple, the second game saw Temple rally in the final frame with a tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first, but freshman pitcher Victoria Lindsey fielded the ball hit back to her to seal Saenz's 600th victory.
With 17 of her 18 years of collegiate coaching at San Jac, the head coach was honored to celebrate her 600th win at home.
"Six hundred doesn't come along for a whole lot of coaches," she said, "so I'm thankful that I was able to get it here at San Jac, and I hope there's many more."
Champion of the underdog
Saenz has recorded many achievements for the San Jac softball program, including its first berth in the NJCAA tournament in 2008. Since then, the softball squad has advanced three more times to nationals (2014, 2016, and 2017).
A former shortstop, Saenz hails from Manitoba, where she helped her team to two of three consecutive Canadian championships and later made the Manitoba Softball and Softball Canada Halls of Fame. In 2004, after one year of coaching at Frank Phillips College, Saenz took over the San Jac team as head coach.
"Coach Saenz stands out for her dedication to the game of softball, the San Jac program, and her players," said Dr. Allatia Harris, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, workforce development, community relations, and diversity. "She has built a respectable program that puts the College on the map. We are proud of her 600th win and the many student-athletes she has led to success beyond the field."
Assistant Coach Kelsey Walters credits Saenz with seeing her potential as a San Jac player in 2008 and 2009. As a coach, Saenz brings intensity and emotion to the game, giving it her all.
"I've learned so much from her," Walters said. "It's not always about softball. There are life lessons to learn within the game. She has shown me how to love a game that knocks you down more often than not and to give the underdog a chance."
In 2020, the underdog — an initially unranked team — proved how far determination could take it.
For more about San Jac softball, visit sanjac.edu/softball.
These girls came together as a team and pushed each other to be better every day. They never gave up in any game or practice.