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CHS grad prepares for first season
Rebecca DeLeon pitch
Former Ceres High School standout softball player Rebecca DeLeon will contribute at pitcher and third base, and on offense during her first season at William Penn University. - photo by DALE BUTLER/ Courier file photo

More than seven months have passed since Rebecca DeLeon played softball for the final time at the prep level.

DeLeon’s senior season at Ceres High School was cut short on March 16 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. She moved to Iowa in August to begin her college career.

A newcomer to the William Penn University softball program, DeLeon and her Statesmen teammates started preparing for the 2021 campaign in August.

“The most enjoyable part is meeting new girls and building new relationships,” she said. “We all have the same common goal, which is to compete at the best level we can. We push each other a lot during our practices.”

Indoor practices consisting of conditioning drills and weight training started last week. 

Coronavirus safety measures are being followed.

“We’re split up into different groups,” DeLeon said. “We have to wear our masks throughout the whole workout. We have to clean and sanitize everything after we’re done.”

Fall ball ended two weeks ago on Oct. 4.

DeLeon and Co. participated in intrasquad scrimmages on the weekends. They were required to wear masks in the dugout.

DeLeon pitched and contributed at third base.

She also impressed on offense, moving from the No. 7 spot to the heart of the lineup.

Said DeLeon: “I did really well pitching. Hitting-wise, too. I had a few homers and a lot of RBIs.”

The 2021 season is scheduled to begin in February.

William Penn’s athletic department implemented a COVID-19 safety plan for each sport with guidance from the NAIA and Heart of American Conference.

These plans will include mitigation strategies for locker room spaces, practice areas, equipment, travel protocols, etc. 

Each athlete will be tested using rapid result testing capabilities.

Each school will complete the same health screening measures before any student travels to another institution for competition. 

Temperatures will be taken prior to competition and, if needed, an isolation room will be available at every school for visiting athletes to stay in should they develop symptoms while traveling to an opposing school.

“We start (official practices) on Jan. 11 when we come back from winter break,” DeLeon said. “As of now, we’re supposed to play. There’s a possibility that we might not because COVID cases are going up. But it’s a really low possibility.”

“Right now, I’m one of the top two pitchers,” she added. “There are seven of us. We all bring different stuff to the team. I’m really calm when I’m pitching. That’s the mentality I have when I’m on the mound.”

William Penn’s 2020-21 school year started on Aug. 24.

Students were tested for COVID-19 when they arrived on campus.

Class registration limits were lowered to start the fall semester to allow for reduced room occupancy.

Temperature checks are done daily.

“I attend all of my classes in person,” DeLeon said. “We have to do daily screenings before 9 o’clock in the morning so we can have access to the campus. We have an ID we have to scan to get inside every building. We have to wears masks everywhere. It’s not as bad as you think. You get used to having it on.”

DeLeon lives in a dorm room on campus.

“It’s a requirement for freshmen and sophomores,” DeLeon said. “It (Iowa) is really different. I’m not a big fan of the weather but I’ll get used to it. It just started snowing a little bit. Everyone is from different places. It’s fun to meet those people and connect with them.”

DeLeon signed a national letter of intent with NAIA Division-I William Penn in April.

She will pitch and play third base for the Statesmen, who compiled an 8-11 record during their shortened season this past spring.

William Penn won eight of its final 10 games.

“I’m looking forward to competing with my new teammates,” DeLeon said. “My goal is to start at pitcher. If not, I at least want to be in the starting lineup. I’m not wasting my time here. I’m here for a reason.”

A psychology major, DeLeon wants to become a family therapist.

She had cumulative GPA of 3.5 at Ceres High.

“It’s a huge relief knowing I have my education paid for and I get to continue to play the game I love,” DeLeon said. “It’s a dream come true.”

DeLeon played four seasons of varsity softball at Ceres High.

She batted .305 (68-for-223) from the plate with four homers, one triple, 46 runs and 51 RBIs in 75 career games.

DeLeon compiled a 9-14 record at pitcher with a 3.47 ERA, 80 strikeouts and 39 walks.

She hit .348 with one triple, four doubles, eight RBIs and nine runs this year.

DeLeon had a 3-1 record inside the circle with a 1.40 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 15 innings.

“I’m glad how my four years went even though senior year didn’t end like I hoped it would,” said DeLeon, who along with her Bulldog teammates, didn’t get to defend their Western Athletic Conference title as the season was canceled due to coronavirus pandemic.