Family is at the center of pretty much everything for the surging Del Campo softball team.
By TREVOR HORN | Contributor
At Del Campo High in Fair Oaks, mother always knows best.
The softball coach for the Cougars, Sharon Props, says she has the natural “maternal instinct” when it comes to coaching.
More importantly she starts her twin daughters, Shyanne and Shebly Props, along with a sister duo of four-year varsity starter Kate Larsen and freshman starting pitcher Brooke Larsen.
It’s truly a family affair.
“That part comes with being a female,” Props said. “Most female coaches have that maternal instinct and that motherly outlook on things, and I have been in the community with all these kids. I’ve known them since rec ball. I’ve known them since they were six. So there is that twist on it.”
Props has been the head coach at Del Campo for 11 years and doubles as the athletic director. Being a neighborhood resident herself, the relationship as mentor to these players started long before high school.
The Cougars have consecutive 16-win seasons and return all but one player from last season, and Del Campo took a 9-3 record in the Capital Valley Conference.
With the freshman Larsen taking over the duties in the circle, Props was very confident in her team early on.
“I really expected them to be this good because I have five seniors and four juniors,” Props said. “I have some veterans and they have matured from last year when they did a lot of adjustments and growing, so I expected them to be strong. But there is still room for improvement.”
The players in this group of upperclassmen are no strangers to getting to the top.
The Cougars lost to Woodcreek-Roseville for the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II title in 2012. The top-heavy league CVC includes defending Div. II champions, Casa Roble-Orangevale along with Oakmont-Roseville, Bella Vista-Fair Oaks and Christian Brothers-Sacramento (Div. II runners-up in 2013) all vying for the championship. Despite that, Props remains confident with the knowledge of the years this group has had honing its skills as a team, not just as players.
On her hoodie, Props wears the slogan “Believe — in the power of the team.”
“I always come up with corny little sayings on the back of my shirts, but I want them to know that it is more than softball,” Props said. “It is a family. It is synergy. It’s getting more out of each other than it is sums of your parts.”
Led by Kate Larsen and fellow seniors Emily Murphy, Halee Howell, Autumn Prince, juniors Haley Dosher and the Props twins along with sophomore leadoff hitter Maggie West, the Cougars were hitting a collective .363 heading into league play.
West led the team with a .556 average through the first 12 games and was the team’s second leading hitter behind Howell last season.
Brooke Larsen’s arrival in the circle — replacing the lone senior from last year in Megan Wantz — has been the addition the team needed. Having older sister Kate on varsity the previous three seasons, Props knew that the younger Brooke was a talented pitcher. That being said, she wasn’t ready to appoint her the new ace. But once Props saw Larsen throw earlier in the offseason, it was an easy decision.
“Kate has been playing with me all four years, so her parents have been telling me ‘She’s coming, she’s coming,’” Props said. “And it’s been a nice surprise because I don’t count my chickens. She’s been a great, great addition. She has the possibility to live up to greatness.”
Hanging in the dugout during each game is a blue mitt and a mini-bat with names written on each. After every game, Props writes down on the bat who was the top hitter for the game and the best defensive star gets her name on the mitt. At the end of the season, the player with her name on each the most takes them home as an end-of-the-year prize.
“It’s better than a trophy or a plaque because they can go back and see each game,” Props said. “They appreciate that because they can go back and say they remember what happened and who we played and all that fun stuff.”
The fun stuff will come with that all-elusive blue section banner that continues to elude the program.
“Every day, you have to bring it,” Props said.
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