Carlmont of Belmont softball coach Jim Liggett reaches milestone win on Tuesday and joins select group of just two others in state history who’ve won 1,000 games in one sport. Many former players were on hand for the 3-0 triumph by the Scots over Capuchino of San Bruno.
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The current moniker for young people that reach adulthood around the year 2000 is “millennials.”
Well, 75-year-old Carlmont of Belmont softball head coach Jim Liggett, a former Triple A player in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization, might not be a millennial himself, but after his Scots posted a 3-0 victory over Capuchino of San Bruno on Tuesday, the elder statesman of California girls softball has reached a millennium after recording career coaching win No. 1000 in a career that began 41 seasons ago in 1976.
The historic win concluded when Carlmont sophomore pitcher Abygail Lan recorded strikeout No. 11 to retire the side and finish off a complete game one-hit shutout.
As the final out was recorded, the fans at jam packed Jim Liggett Field, including the Capuchino fans, stood in unison to give Liggett a standing ovation.
When he walked through the gate onto the field and acknowledged the crowd, Liggett’s girls doused him with sparkling apple cider they shook up like champagne bottles.
“I was the athletic director and I was coaching other sports at Carlmont and the softball coach didn’t want to come back,” Liggett said. “It was similar to baseball, they only had around eight games on the schedule, and it was a great group of girls so I took it figuring it would only be for one year, and now to get 1,000 wins is really something, but it’s always been about the girls.”
Liggett became just the third reported coach in state history, according to the Cal-Hi Sports record lists, to reach 1,000 wins coaching in one sport. The only others are the late John Stevenson of El Segundo in baseball and Gary McKnight from Mater Dei of Santa Ana in boys basketball.
On the all-time list for softball coaching wins, Liggett already became the first in state history to reach 800 wins and 900 wins. No other coaches on that all-time state list have even gotten to 800.
There are other coaches in state history with 1,000 wins or more combining more than one sport, including those who’ve coached boys water polo and boys swimming, such as San Jose Bellarmine’s Larry Rogers, and boys water polo and girls water polo, such as Brent Bohlender of Modesto Johansen. Liggett’s total for other sports added in is not known, but it is known that he has them in football and baseball.
Among the steady stream of well-wishers that came by to say hello before and during the game was one of those girls, Lori (Grech) Martinelli, a shortstop and leadoff hitter on Liggett’s very first team in 1976, and one of the first inductees into the Carlmont softball Hall of Fame.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” said Martinelli, who after embracing Liggett before the game and posing for pictures with her old coach sat in the stands with several of Liggett’s early “girls” who are now women in their mid-50s.
Another former player that was not going to miss the festivities was 2007 graduate Ashley Chinn. She was one of Liggett’s best pitchers and hitters ever who went on to pitch at Stanford.
“I made it a point to leave work early to get here because there was no way I would miss this,” said Chinn, who now works for Facebook as a university recruiter. “It’s so exciting for me to be here. I remember being in the circle for wins number 700 and 800.
Chinn also remembers a Coach Liggett that was a little different 10 years ago.
“He’s calmed down a little. I can tell,” she sad. “Back then I cried a couple of times as a freshman. I think the reason (Coach) Liggett has had so much success is because he has a way of bringing out the best in his players, and then attributing that success to them. He’s challanging, a jokester, and he can be intimidating, but at the end of the day he’s our number one fan.”
The importance of the milestone and the fanfare surrounding it was not lost on the current players.
“Before the game, I was a little nervous and we all felt a little pressure. It was on the (TV) news,” said senior shortstop Kelsey Ching, who walked and doubled. “I’m very proud of all his accomplishments and thankful for everything Coach Liggett has done for all the girls that have come through the Carlmont program. He’s very supportive of all his players and cares about us not just as players but as students in our studies.”
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend