When Sam Parish and Bella Romani signed their letter of intents and returned it back to their future colleges—Santa Clara University for Parish and Dominican University for Romani—they felt a swirl of emotions, ranging from euphoria to joy to exhilaration. The Sobrato High seniors had every reason to feel proud of themselves and emotional, as the softball players realized a dream of earning scholarships to play college softball.
“It was one of the best feelings ever,” said Parish, a standout catcher who made a verbal commitment to play at SCU late in the spring of 2017, her sophomore year. “The big jump is finally complete, and it’s a dream come true. Now it’s real and official that I’m playing for a D-1 college.”
Romani was equally excited to send her letter of intent back to Dominican, a solid Division II program in San Rafael.
“It was really exiting for my family and I,” said Romani, a shortstop/third baseman. “It was rewarding because I feel like I’ve worked hard for this my whole life just to get to this point. The mascot at our school (Dominican) is a penguin, and my mom now always calls me my little penguin.”
Both players impressed their respective college coaches with a variety of skills and intangibles. Parish, who initially committed to UNLV but de-committed after coach Lisa Dodd left to take the same position with Santa Clara, knew Dodd was the coach to lead her for the next stage of her career.
“She is an amazing coach and knows every little fundamental so she can help you fix any mistake quickly,” Parish said. “I think she noticed my work ethic and leadership from the catcher position. I think it’s important to be a leader on the field, and I’m always one of the loudest players on the field. I make sure everyone is on the same page, especially defensively.”
In conversations with Dominican coach Juliana Santos, Romani got the sense that Santos liked her athleticism and ability to bond with her future teammates.
“I came out on an unofficial visit and she liked how I worked with the other girls and got along with them,” Romani said.
Both players said the highlight of their careers so far was Sobrato’s 10-8, 9-inning loss to Hillsdale in the second round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs last spring. Even in defeat, Parish and Romani knew they had nothing to hang their heads over.
“I was so in the game, so focused, it was just amazing,” Parish said. “The hitting was great, catching great, and everyone was into the game. We had a big connection, and it was awesome to see.”
Romani, who plays her club softball with the Sorcerers of Livermore and has the ability to produce hits to every part of the field, echoed similar sentiments.
“Even though we lost, I felt like the whole team played really well,” she said. “We came together as a team and it was great to be a part of that experience.”
Parish plays her club ball for the Batbusters out of Stockton after a stint with Central Coast Athletics. Dodd first saw Parish play at a club tournament a couple of years ago, and Dodd let Parish’s coach at the time know she viewed Parish as a future collegiate player. Parish had already attended camps and clinics at Santa Clara, and those sessions proved to be a major growth period for Parish.
“She’ll tell me what is going on with certain plays, and I learn a lot from her coaching,” Parish said.
Parish was a right fielder on her 8-and-under team when she got connected with Chris Gomez, who taught Parish the finer points of catching. The lessons ran for two to three years, and Parish looks back on the experience as a tremendous growth period.
“Chris never let me slack off,” Parish said. “He was a great coach and I developed so much (under his tutelage).”
Gomez had Parish field pop-fly balls in the dark—with a face mask on, of course—which proved beneficial.
“It was super challenging, but it gave me an awareness I needed to have playing catcher,” she said.
Romani started playing softball as a sixth grader in the Santa Clara Recreation League, started playing club ball a couple of years later and worked hard to develop her skills and mindset. Romani’s future school seemingly is a perfect fit, as Dominican University has a department of nursing program that is perfectly suited for someone like Romani who plans on pursuing a career in the field.