By Jeong Park
The Cal State Fullerton softball program has made a “150-point jump” in head coach Kelly Ford’s four years, Ford says.
The team has won back-to-back Big West Championships. It made back-to-back NCAA Regional Final appearances, losing both times to UCLA.
CSUF Athletic Director Jim Donovan on Aug. 24 announced an extension of Ford’s contract through 2020.
“Coach Ford and her staff have done a tremendous job building Titan softball into a nationally competitive program again,” Donovan said in a statement.
Ford will now have at least a few more years to make what she called the most challenging jump: Making the Women’s College World Series. That’s a feat not reached by CSUF since 1995.
“We watched the baseball team make College World Series this year,” Ford said. “It’s been a constant inspiration.”
The team has its work cut out. A star junior pitcher, Sydney Golden of Riverside, who had a 2.97 ERA, transferred to Maryland, following her pitching coach Tori Tyson. Kelsey Kessler and Cerissa Rivera graduated. Golden, Kessler and Rivera combined to pitch 85 percent of the team’s innings last season.
Nearly half of the starters on offense last season have graduated.
But Ford is optimistic.
“Our underclassmen from last (season) were playing behind some of the seniors, and it made them hungry,” Ford said. “They respectfully played behind, but had that fire burning in their belly.”
She has at least one good reason for her optimism: Freshman pitcher Taylor Dockins, whom Ford called the most decorated softball player to ever come to CSUF.
Dockins, who graduated from Norco High with 108 career wins, won Gatordate state player of the year. She threw 183 strikeouts in 203 innings and had a 1.00 ERA.
Dockins has had to battle liver cancer, again and again. She learned this summer that her cancer has returned; she had undergone a surgery last July to remove her tumors.
“I wasn’t sure if she was going to show up and be able to…