HOUSTON, Texas — Eight months after their record-setting season came to an end at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I softball championship, the No. 3 San Jacinto College Coyotes will open the 2022 regular season at home as hosts of the prestigious Island Invitational the weekend of Feb. 3-5 at Crenshaw Park. They will be tested early as they match up with Vernon College (42-12), Grayson College (49-7, national runner-up) and Connors State (17-30). View the entire Coyote schedule and game times.
In 2021, the Coyotes concluded the season with a 38-10 overall record and 10-2 mark in conference play. On May 28, 2021, the team played its final two games of the season at the national tournament against Florida Southwestern State College and Grayson College. In game one, Florida Southwestern State managed to get rolling against the Coyotes in the third inning in the semi-final and eventually won by a score of 10-2. Florida Southwestern State College went on to be the 2021 national champions.
Next up, the Coyotes would rematch with the Grayson College Vikings in an elimination bracket semifinal. After defeating the Vikings a day earlier by a final score of 2-1, the team fell 5-4 to end its quest for a national championship. Only four outs away from competing in the finals, the season will forever be known as one of the most successful in San Jac history.
The Coyotes wrapped up last season winning 16 of the last 20 games played, including a 3-0 sweep in regional play to win the championship, and winning three straight in the national championship before the final two losses in the tournament.
"2021 was a banner year for our program," said Kelly Saenz, Coyotes head coach. "We strive to build winning programs here at San Jac, and 2021 was proof that what we are building is a consistent contender. We have now been to nationals three of the last four years."
Key starters set to return
"In 2021, we had a tremendous group of young ladies, and 2022 will be no different in that respect," Saenz said. "We look to compete on a high level and expect great results. I am excited for the upcoming season, and we will be prepared to defend our regional championship with a return to nationals. I really believe we will have a chance to bring home a national title"
With the 2022 season, San Jac looks to continue to build on the momentum gained at the end of the 2021 campaign as the Coyotes return seven major key players/starters to the lineup. The one position that will feature a wealth of talent and depth is in the circle. Ronni Grofman (COVID freshman - Kingwood Park High School) should anchor the staff. Grofman made 14 starts and 24 appearances in 2021. Grofman showed tremendous growth and improved abilities and even pitched a complete game victory against The University of Houston.
Also on the mound with Grofman will be two true freshmen — Christin Haygood (Hargrave High School) and Rachel Ybarra (Travis High School). Lastly, adding a huge impact arm is former Texas Blaze pitcher Daryn Grams (Episcopal High School). The Coyotes expect Grams to be a huge piece with her experience.
At the plate, the Coyotes coaches believe their club is as good as it has been in recent memory.
"We can really hit," said Kelsey Walters, assistant coach. "We feel confident that we will be able to call on anyone in impact moments, and they will be able to get the job done."
Returning from 2021 is the team's leading hitter Jules Garcia (Santa Fe High School), who slashed a .513 and had 81 hits, 10 doubles, and one triple with 31 stolen bases. Maggie Childs (Santa Fe High School) held a slash line of .316, with 42 hits, 11 doubles, and one home run. Kaurie Winters (Deer Park High School), Tabitha Burnett (Deer Park High School), and Gabby Cantu (Goose Creek Memorial High School) look to be relied upon for experience, depth, and leadership.
The Coyotes projected lineup will also feature Taniece Tyson (Red Oak High School), a COVID sophomore power-hitting University of Texas transfer, and Emma Garcia (Dickinson High School), a lefty slapper and a solid defender from McNeese State University in the mid infield.
San Jac will also add Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfer, mid infielder Kayla Gonzalez (Pearland High School) and outfielder Leslie Longoria (Dobie High School) from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.
The Coyote coaches believe the region is as competitive as ever.
"Blinn is very well coached, and they never seem to take a day off," said Walters. "It is always a battle when we play them."
Also noted was the return of the Lady Roadrunners of Angelina College, who took 2021 off from athletic competition due to the pandemic.
"Our focus from day one this spring will be to win the game on the schedule that day. One game at a time," said Saenz. "If we do that, we will find success. If we play Coyote Softball and put the pressure on our opponents, I like our chances. I look forward to each day with these ladies."
To follow the San Jacinto College Coyotes, visit the team website at San Jac Softball.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, evolving industries, maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the people of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. San Jacinto College is among the top five community colleges in the nation as designated by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence, and was named an Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction in 2020. The College spans five campuses serving approximately 41,000 credit and non-credit students annually, and offers more than 200 degrees and certificates across eight major areas of study that put students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. San Jacinto College's impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs. The College is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor's and Moody's.