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.

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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.

 

PART 2 – ROYAL, REGAL AND REDLANDS CONNECTIONS

To get the full story, read Part 1 here. 

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

A year or so after that volleyball banquet, I wrote an article about Redlands High’s boys soccer team. At the time, the Terriers were among the most successful soccer side in Southern California. Even on their own campus, they were more significant than any other team.

It was no contest.

Back-to-back CIF championships, five trips to the CIF semifinals and a record run of 23 straight seasons of playoff appearances had left a high standard unmatched by any other program on that campus, before or since.

Every kid that made varsity soccer teams at Redlands during that era was cutting edge. Cream of the crop. Best this city had to offer. Kids cut from those teams would have made teams at other schools very strong.

That’s how strong Redlands was in those years.

LUDIKHUIZE’S FIST PUMP SIGNALS

TERRIER GREATNESS

My by-line appeared about a soccer playoff preview for their match in Orange County. Among other facts listed were the team’s top three scoring attackers. Jeannie Ludikhuize, mother of Chris Ludikhuize, read that day’s edition and called my publisher to lobby a complaint.

She was peeved that her son’s name had been left out. He was fourth in scoring. It must have been intentional, she felt. Or maybe it was that the team’s coach, Tony Murtaugh, failed to report this information. Neither of which was accurate.

Toebe Bush, our publisher, asked me to call Jeannie.

“Jeannie,” I asked her, “what grade is your son in right now?”

Chris was a senior. Time was running out on his high school career. In fact, this would be his final match. Jeannie was, apparently, not enjoying those moments as fully as she could have.

“All I know,” I told her, “is that if I had a son on a team like this, I’d take my lawn chair, plant it in some good location, watch the game and watch every move my son made – and enjoy everything. Maybe even take some pictures.

“Savor each moment,” I said.

No one was leaving Chris out intentionally. “Forget what’s written in the newspaper, or what’s not written. Just enjoy your son.”

Jeannie, in fact, did calm down and recognized that her son didn’t necessarily need media recognition. Parents want their children’s achievements recorded. You know, for their scrapbook. For the scholarship opportunities. Good press never hurts. Her son was a good player, regardless.

By the way, in Chris’ final high school match, he couldn’t have played better. He saved a remarkable scoring attack by Anaheim Esperanza High, taking a shot that whizzed past a drawn-out Redlands goalkeeper, clearing the ball just off the line, saving a sure-fire goal. In the rain. Chris shot a triumphant fist into the air in jubilation.

That fist pump, to me, signifies that Redlands has long made its mark in all sports, at every level, creating A Redlands Connection that can never be stripped away. One of Chris’ teammates, by the way, was Landon Donovan.

Redlands ended up losing that semifinals match.

Chris represents hundreds of Redlands sports products that will not be in any of these blog posts – good but not good enough. These blog posts are, in a sense, dedicated to them. Thanks to Chris’ mom, Jeannie, it’s a reflection of a splendid athlete, pushy parent, a professional writer and limited newspaper space.

REDLANDS CONNECTION ROUNDUP

There are at least three Redlands products that share a total of four Super Bowl rings.

A three-time Indianapolis 500 champion actually learned to drive in Redlands.

Soccer’s World Cup has connections to Redlands in both men’s and women’s lore.

There’s a World Series ring in there, 1984.

The man who personally thwarted Arnold Palmer’s chance to complete golf’s Grand Slam in 1970 later moved back to the area, thus connecting Redlands to the sport’s royalty.

Olympic gold medalist Misty May, a superstar at Long Beach State and eventual beach volleyball megastar, led her college to a national volleyball championship. The legendary setter graduated, replaced by Redlands’ Keri Nishimoto, who had a few notable achievements on her own athletic ledger.

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Redlands setter Keri Nishimoto took over for legendary Misty May at Long Beach State. Photo credit: Cara Garcia

Those are the people we’re after.

This is a bond between Redlands and the major sports world beyond. And what a world it has been! And what bonds they have built up!

Redlands has been connected to the likes of coaching and managing legends such as Lombardi, Landry, Jerry Tarkanian, Tony LaRussa, John McKay, George “Papa Bear” Halas, Abe Saperstein, Tommy Lasorda, very nearly John Wooden and Knute Rockne and, quite possibly, Connie Mack.

For instance, did John Wooden recruit Redlands’ Danny Wolthers to play at UCLA in 1961?

That’s a breathless collection in this connection.

JOHN WOODEN UCLA
Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden may have tried to recruit Redlands’ Danny Wolthers to play in Westwood in 1961. Whatever the story, Wolthers chose to play at Cal-Berkeley. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/ALLSPORT

Redlanders were teammates of Bart Starr, Carlton Fisk, Gaylord Perry, Misty May, Joe Namath, Orel Hershiser, Kristine Lilly, Darrell Waltrip, Fernando Valenzuela, Jennie Finch, Mark Spitz, Charles Paddock, race car dynamo Jimmie Johnson, David Beckham, Cy Young Award winners, baseball Rookies of the Year, Heisman Trophy winners, World Cup heroes, No. 1 draft choices and various Hall of Famers from different sports.

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Jennie Finch, a teammate of Redlands East Valley’s Ally Von Liechtenstein at Arizona State, is shown pitching against China in 2008. Photo by C5813

(Photo source.)

It’s a connection to sports’ very best.

Strong and historical opposition to Redlands connections has come from the likes of Bobby Jones, Amanda Beard, Ronnie Lott, Richard Petty, George Allen, Spitz, Arnold Palmer, Carl Lewis, Jack Nicklaus, plus an endless supply of baseball, basketball and football all-stars, golf and tennis legends.

In some cases, Redlanders came out on top. In many cases, they lost out to the greats.

For over a decade, Redlands caught an up-close glance of football All-Pros, NFL Hall of Fame players, MVP types, Super Bowl and NFL championships and legendary football players, coaches and executives when the Los Angeles Rams trained at the local university.

Beginning in 1985, the Redlands Bicycle Classic began a connection to a sport that led to the appearance of national and international champions, Tour de France competitors and a link to a world that continues to connect.

Redlands has been connected to Super Bowls, World Cups, World Series, Olympics, Indianapolis 500s, Kentucky Derbys, baseball division winners, NFC championship contenders, Daytona, national collegiate championships, college bowl games, NASCAR at Daytona and Talladega, major tennis and golf championships, not to mention one of the world’s greatest showtime basketball teams, the Harlem Globetrotters – and the World Series.

Bill Buster owned a five-point share in Captain Bodgit, the colt that ran a close second to Silver Charm in the 1997 Kentucky Derby.

Those are the people these blogs are about. Connections from Redlands to the outside world of sports success at the highest possible level. It doesn’t make sense that such a smallish community has become so prominent in virtually every major sport in the USA – and beyond.

It, thus, becomes A Redlands Connection.