In addition to overall State Coach of the Year Matt Sweeney of Pleasanton Foothill, we have additional state coaching honors for the 2019 season going to Robert Vernon of Ripon (small schools) & Ed Medina from Godinez of Santa Ana (medium schools).
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STATE COACH OF THE YEAR
Robert Vernon (Ripon)
It didn’t take long for Vernon to figure out how this year’s version of Ripon softball was going to win games. It wasn’t going to be like 2015-16 when the Indians had an ace pitcher — Danielle Sperry (now at Sacramento State) — and they won a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title (2015) and made it to the finals in 2016. Instead, this year’s team would score runs and depend on a pitcher without strikeout stuff but who could throw pitches designed for batters to hit into the defense.
To say that plan worked might be an understatement. Vernon’s team went 24-2, won the SJS D4 title and was the Cal-Hi Sports D4 State Team of the Year. One of the losses was to D3 state No. 1 Oakdale while the other was to Hilmar in a league game after Ripon had clinched everything. The coach has now added the Small Schools State Coach of the Year honor.
Vernon completed his 14th season with the program and also won a section title this season with just four seniors on the roster. One of those seniors was his daughter, Sydney, who will play in college at D3 Concordia University in Wisconsin. Three of the top underclassmen were junior Lily Mejia (.517, six homers), junior Mackenzie Hutchinson (eight homers) and sophomore Sydney Thomason (24-2 as pitcher).
“Coach Vernon is great,” said 2017 Ripon grad Mikaela Ferreira in a Manteca Bulletin article, who also played with Sperry on the 2015 title team. “He makes it fun, but still kept the competitive part of the game.”
Vernon is the fifth Small Schools State Coach of the Year from the SJS since the honor began to be handed out in 1998. The other four are Mark Miller of Linden (2004), Casey Cooper from Orestimba of Newman (2007), Mike Pontius from Jim Elliot Christian of Lodi (2011) and Tony Williams of Mariposa County (2016).
Last 10 State Small Schools Coaches of the Year: 2018 – Neil Stinson (East Nicolaus); 2017 – Flo Galindo (Sun Valley Village Christian); 2016 – Tony Williams (Mariposa County, Mariposa); 2015 – Margaret Neill (Lancaster Paraclete); 2014 – Russell Emberson (Taft); 2013 – Melissa Bugarin-Espinoza (San Pedro Port of Los Angeles); 2012 – Jim Pingree (Monterey Santa Catalina); 2011 – Mike Pontius (Lodi Elliot Christian); 2010 – Raoul Singh (Sutter); 2009 – Alan Borges (Eureka St. Bernard’s).
STATE COACH OF THE YEAR
Ed Medina (Godinez, Santa Ana)
History was made on May 25 at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine when Godinez and the only softball coach the school has ever had captured its first-ever CIF Southern Section title and the first CIFSS softball title won by any school from the Santa Ana Unified School District.
Godinez captured the title in the D4 final with a 15-1 romp past El Segundo. And while Medina benefitted from having sisters Keana and Savannah Pola on the roster, that didn’t prevent the Orange County Register from choosing him this week as its Orange County Coach of the Year (which also could have gone to coaches from D1, D2 or D3 schools in the Southern Section).
Medina actually has more than 30 years of high school softball coaching experience. He began in 1988 when his daughter, Kelly, was at Century High of Santa Ana. He continued at Century — and picked up football coaching there as well when his son, Fred, was playing in 2002 — until the 2007 season. That’s when the new school at Godinez opened and it was where Medina could build a program from scratch.
In the past four seasons, Medina’s teams have gone 18-7, 22-6, 21-5 and 26-4 for this season. He is only the second State Medium Schools Coach of the Year from Orange County since the honor began to be selected in 1998. The only other honoree was Orange County softball coaching legend Alan Dugard from Woodbridge of Irvine for 2003.
Last 10 State Medium Schools Coaches of the Year: 2018 – Kristin Grubbs (Benicia); 2017 – J.J. Vaivao (Ventura Buena); 2016 – Bobby Flores (Grand Terrace); 2015 – Brian Goulart (Manteca East Union); 2014 – Jim Maier (Santa Fe Springs St. Paul); 2013 – Linda Merrida (Woodland Pioneer); 2012 – Randy Willis (Novato San Marin); 2011 – Jerry Dumatrait (Bakersfield Ridgeview); 2010 – Michael Roberts (San Diego University City); 2009 – Howard Miller (Torrance North).