DARNOLD, DE ROO AND DAMON JUST PART OF “CONNECTIONS”

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold was the latest “connection.”

Throw in football’s Jim Weatherwax and Brian DeRoo.

Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright showed up here, with his team, one Saturday morning in 2003.

“Black” Jack Gardner left here in 1928.

Jerry Tarkanian lifted off from here in 1961.

How many Redlands Connections can there be?

It’s the basis for the Blog site, www.redlandsconnection.com. Dedicated to the idea that there’s a connection from Redlands to almost every major sporting event.

The afore-mentioned have already been featured. There have been others. Plenty of others.

Golf. Track & field. Tennis. Baseball and basketball. Softball and soccer. The Olympic Games and the Kentucky Derby. The World Series and the Super Bowl. You name it.

For a city this size, the connections to all of those are remarkable.

Softball’s Savannah Jaquish left Redlands East Valley for Louisiana State.

Bob Karstens was just shooting a few baskets when I saw him at Redlands High. Turned out he was one of three white men ever to play for the usually all-black Harlem Globetrotters.

Brian Billick coached a Hall of Famer. Together, they won a Super Bowl.

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Brian Billick, a key Redlands Connection.

Speaking of Super Bowls, not only was a former Redlands High player involved in the first two NFL championship games, there was a head referee who stood behind QBs Bart Starr and Lenny Dawson.

That referee got his start in Redlands.

One of racing’s fastest Top Fuel dragsters is a Redlands gal, Leah Pritchett.

LEAH PRITCHETT (leahpritchett.com)
Leah Pritchett has punched her Top Fuel dragster over 330 mph many times.

Greg Horton forcefully blocked some of football’s greatest legends for a near-Super Bowl team.

At a high school playoff game at Redlands High in 1996, Alta Loma High showed up to play a quarterfinals match. It was Landon Donovan of Redlands taking on Carlos Bocanegra.

The two eventually played on the same Team USA in the World Cup and the Olympics.

Karol Damon’s high-jumping Olympic dreams weren’t even known to her mother. She wound up in Sydney. 2000.

In the coming days, weeks and months, there will be more connections.

  • A surfing legend.
  • Besides Landon Donovan, there’s another soccer dynamo.
  • When this year’s Indianapolis 500 rolls around, we’ll tell you about a guy named “Lucky Louie.”
  • Fifteen years before he won his first Masters, Tiger Woods played a 9-hole exhibition match at Redlands Country Club.
  • University of Arizona softball, one of the nation’s greatest programs, was home to a speedy outfielder.
  • As for DeRoo, he was present for one of the pro football’s darkest moments on the field.
  • In 1921, an Olympic gold medalist showed up and set five world records in Redlands.
  • The Redlands Bicycle Classic might have carved out of that sport’s most glorious locations – set in motion by a 1986 superstar squad.
  • Distance-running sensation Mary Decker was taken down by a onetime University of Redlands miler.
  • Collegiate volleyball probably never had a greater athlete from this area.

As for Darnold, consider that the one-time University of Redlands blocker is the father of Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback who might be this year’s No. 1 draft selection in pro football’s draft.

Jaquish became the first-ever 4-time All-American at talent-rich LSU.

Jacob Nottingham, drafted a few years ago by the Houston Astros, probably never knew he’d be part of two Moneyball deals.

Gardner, who coached against Bill Russell in the collegiate ranks, tried to recruit Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas State.

Wright, whose team went into the March 31-April 2 weekend hoping to win the NCAA championship for the third time, brought his team to play the Bulldogs as sort of a warm-up test for Hawaii.

Tarkanian? Few might’ve known that the legendary Tark the Shark started chewing on those towels while he was coaching at Redlands High.

Norm Schachter was head referee in three Super Bowls, including Green Bay’s inaugural championship win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Norm Schachter with Hank Stram
Norm Schacter, wearing No. 60 (not his normal official number), synchronizes with Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram during halftime of the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967.

Speaking of Tarkanian, Weatherwax played hoops for him at Redlands. Eight years later, Weatherwax wore jersey No. 73 for the Green Bay Packers. It makes him the only man to ever play for Tarkanian and Vince Lombardi.

There will be more Redlands connections.

 

SAHVANNA JAQUISH: CATCHING OR HOLDING COURT ON ESPN?

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

(Part of this writing came in a submission in the Highland Community News in 2017.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sahvanna Jaquish showed up, someday, on ESPN, holding a microphone under the nose of prominent coaches, players, managers, world class athletes – someone – as a network commentator. She’s received plenty of exposure on the sport’s network over the past couple seasons.

That’s on the field, not holding a microphone.

Jaquish, a Redlands East Valley product from a few years earlier, is Louisiana State University’s clean-up hitting catcher, a force both in the batter’s box and behind the plate. She contributed in a huge fashion to the Lady Tigers’ appearance at this year’s College World Series.

First, though, she got to finish off a brilliant collegiate softball career that took her from Highland, Mentone and Corona to Baton Rouge, where she was an All-American at LSU. She’s got a year of eligibility remaining.

Highland’s where she lived.

Mentone’s where her high school campus sat.

And Corona was home base for her club team.

All-American? She’s all-conference, all-region, a four-time all-leaguer in her REV days, All-CIF, you name it. Whether she wielding a bat, or holding a piece of leather, Jaquish is a lethal softballer – one of the best across the nation.

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Sahvanna Jaquish, a Redlands East Valley High product, played four brilliant seasons at LSU, got drafted third overall in a pro softball league draft in 2017 and could be a U.S. Olympian by 2020 (Photo by LSU).

Bet on this: If she was a guy doing similar things on a baseball field, scouts would be lauding her as a possible No. 1 draft pick.

Truth is, she did get drafted in a pro softball league. First round, too.

A COLLEGE WORLD SERIES REGULAR

At the 2016 College World Series in a 4-1 elimination game win over No. 16 Georgia, Jaquish relied on teammate Bianke Bell’s two-HR game to help LSU prevail. She was catching Carly Hoover, who improved to 22-8 on the season, in a three-hit performance. The Lady Tigers beat Georgia pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson (28-9), leaving LSU to take on No. 2 Oklahoma later that night, June 5.

One game earlier, Jaquish’s two-run double – having advanced Bell two bases with an earlier bunt – were key hitting moments in a 6-4 elimination game, beating No. 6 Alabama.

LSU didn’t get off too well at the World Series, losing in the opening game to Michigan, 2-0, a game in which Jaquish went hitless. She caught Allie Walljasper’s mound effort, not a bad one, really, surrendering just four hits and a pair of runs.

Jaquish (.343 average, 19 doubles, 13 HRs, 76 RBIs, .463 on-base), is an accomplished NCAA All-American in a highly competitive national women’s softball field. She was swept away into the highest level of collegiate softball, right off the REV campus following a brilliant prep career.

At REV, you knew she was special. Just in her senior year, she batted .548, knocked in 48 runs in 25 games. Her final game as a Lady Wildcats, she went 0-for-1 in a 5-0 losing playoff game against Charter Oak High. The Lady Chargers were smart enough to walk her a few times.

Hit .443 as a junior, .565 in her junior season.

Rival coaches knew who she was, too.

Jaquish was stolen. Stolen, that is, right under the noses of USC, UCLA, San Diego State, not to mention Pepperdine, Arizona State, etc., etc., etc.

The collegiate highlights? Name them all? Jaquish blasted a three-run homer against No. 2 Oklahoma, equaling the score at 3-3, before the Lady Sooners eliminated LSU, 7-3. That came in 2016.

As for her coach, Beth Torina – the one responsible for recruiting Jaquish to Baton Rouge – LSU has long been a major force in the collegiate softball world.

Just to get into the 2016 College World Series, LSU had to endure a best-of-three series against No. 7 James Madison in the Super Regionals.

SEC FOOTBALL? SOFTBALL’S JUST AS GOOD

You think Southeastern Conference football was hotly-contested? Wait until you ingest the full force of SEC softball.

Beyond No. 10 LSU, there’s No. 11 Kentucky, No. 16 Georgia, sixth-ranked Alabama, No.11 Texas A&M, No. 8 Auburn and, uh, No. 1-ranked Florida.

It kind of makes the other NCAA Div. 1 conferences look weak. Maybe not. After all, Oklahoma was ranked No. 2.

S JAQUISH - 3RD BASE
Catcher or third base? Redlands East Valley’s Sahvanna Jaquish made every play count over a brilliant four-year career at Louisiana State (Photo by LSU).

Jaquish concluded her career last spring, 2017. LSU’s all-time RBI leader. Another All-American season. That made it four straight All-American seasons, the first in LSU’s rich history. Drafted by the Chicago Pride, third overall, 2017. National Pro Fastpitch. Hit .323, by the way, with 4 HRs. All-Rookie team.

In February 2018, she signed a two-year contract with the USSSF Pride. She could be playing Olympic ball by 2020.

As for holding a microphone for ESPN, Jaquish majored in Mass Communications, specializing in broadcast journalism. Who knows where that’ll lead? Just taking a look at her LSU publicity photo on the school’s website, you can tell it’s a camera-friendly face that could take off at a place like ESPN. FoxSports. You name it.

Just like her playing career. A Redlands Connection on and off the field.