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COC Short on Experience

Posted: January 28, 2008 3:55 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2008 2:02 a.m.

College of the Canyons first-year coach John Wissmath, front center, discusses batting stances with the Cougar softball team during a practice. Former Cougars head coach Ray Whitten, now an assistant with the team, looks on in the background.

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John Wissmath searched high and low.

The College of the Canyons new softball coach had just seven players he knew were going to be on the team for the season. Four were returning, and only Jaclyn Ruiz was a starter for the Cougars last year.
He talked to other coaches and talked to athletes from other sports to fill out his roster. He ran advertisements.
"I had to go out and find bodies," Wissmath said. "I just asked people that knew a lot of people in the area."
Wissmath replaced Ray Whitten, the COC head coach for 21 years who retired after last season. Whitten has remained on staff as an assistant.
The new head coach came on right as the school year started, which limited his recruiting capabilities for this year.
A team can usually play up to 12 scrimmages in the fall, but due to roster limitations, the Cougars competed in only two games.
Their season was scheduled to start Sunday, but the recent storms canceled the doubleheader the Cougars were going to play against Mount San Antonio College and Palomar College.
Now, the Cougars will open their season at home on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. against Long Beach City College. Their first Western State Conference game will take place on the road at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria on Feb. 26.
He has 13 players on the team now, but he doesn't have a player with significant high school or travel ball pitching experience.
"Our infield will be tough," Wissmath said. "I feel good about my infield and that's about it.
"We're struggling behind the plate and struggling in the outfield."
Ruiz is moving over from first base to third base this season, and taking her spot at first will be Lauren Rose.
The freshman out of Valencia High will also see some time in the pitcher's circle this season for the Cougars.
As for the COC bats, Wissmath expects Jeralyn Gates to hit lead off, and Ruiz to hit behind her. Rose will likely hit in the third spot.
"She's going to be one of the best in the league no question," said Wissmath of Rose.
Sophomore Whitney Stanley will be behind the plate for COC, handling the yet-to-be tested pitching staff.
"The thing I like about Whitney Stanley is she was going to give it up and she decided to go after it this year. She's going to catch for us," Wissmath said. "With that leadership behind the dish, I'm confident we'll hold our own. I'm really pulling for her. She's going to be our dark horse."
The first-year Cougars coach came to COC after a 12-year stint at Butte College in Oroville, Calif. He amassed more than 250 wins and went to the postseason six straight years.
Wissmath said he wanted to come to COC for the opportunity to coach in Southern California, and to tap into the talent in this area of the state.
"First of all, this is a fulltime position and second of all, to have an opportunity to coach a team in the South and get familiar with the style of play here," Wissmath said. "When I go to the state tournament and the north and the south play, the south is composed and the north is uptight."
He's getting his chance now to coach here in Southern California. But he'll have to do it with a youthful group.
"What I've got from these girls are 3-4 girls who have played travel ball and got experience. The rest are out there because they like to play," Wissmath said. "They are going to go out there and with our help, make the most of it. And that's why I think we'll be competitive."


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