Hired to rebuild Modesto Junior College’s softball program, Donnie Donaldson’s first year as head coach of the Pirates came to an abrupt end this past spring due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“It was super devastating,” said Donaldson, a 1989 Ceres High School grad. “We were having a pretty decent year. We were ranked in the state in stolen bases. Our pitching was coming around. We were getting better on offense and defense. Modesto Junior College isn’t a guaranteed win anymore.”
Modesto Junior College plans to build on last year’s momentum in 2021.
The 2020 Pirates upset state-ranked Sacramento City College 3-2 in eight innings on Feb. 29 and Northern California-ranked Folsom Lake College 3-1 on March 3.
Modesto Junior College had a 7-11 overall record.
“I’m excited to get back on the field,” Donaldson said. “This is the longest I’ve gone without any kind of softball for 20 years. We started conditioning on Tuesday. March 26 is our first official day of practice.”
The 2021 campaign is supposed to begin on April 10 and run through June.
COVID-19 protocols, including practicing social distancing, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer and cleaning softballs between innings, will be practiced.
“We shortened our season from 40 to 28 games,” Donaldson said. “No scrimmages. No preseason contacts. We haven’t gotten official word yet if we’re going to get to play. The Governor and county health advisors will determine if we have a season. My fingers are crossed. It concerns me CCAA shut down all sports through 2020-21.”
Modesto Junior College currently has 13 players on its roster.
Alyssa Donaldson (Waterford, 1B/DH), Cheyenne Juarez (Gregori, IF), Taylor Brewer (Waterford, OF/2B), Jana Fontana (Beyer, SS) and Aubrey Garcia (Patterson, 3B/C) are returnees.
Donaldson batted .341 from the plate with two home runs, two triples, 12 RBIs, five runs and three stolen bases last season. She holds Waterford’s career (143) and single-season (49) RBI records. Donaldson is also the program’s all-time home-run leader (22).
Juarez batted .286 with two triples, three doubles, three RBIs, 11 runs and 14 stolen bases.
Brewer batted .250 with three doubles, eight RBIs, five runs and four stolen bases.
Fontana batted .200 with two doubles, five RBIs, five runs and seven stolen bases.
Garcia batted .195 with three homers, eight RBIs, 10 runs and two stolen bases.
Megan Lutz (Hughson, catcher) and Angelica Bernal (Riverbank, UT) and Steele Shumway (Pitman, 3B) are newcomers.
Lutz and Shumway transferred from Cal Baptist University and Merced College, respectively.
“We don’t have a lot of new players,” Donaldson said. “A lot of the girls that we had last year are returning.”
Donaldson has three assistant coaches, including Dave Ward, Randy Richardson and Joel Broumas.
Donaldson, Ward and Broumas coached together at the high-school level.
“It has been a long time since MJC had a championship softball season,” Donaldson said. “There’s a tremendous amount of talent in our County. We want players that want to win a Big-8 title and transfer out to four-year schools.”
The Yosemite Community College District Board approved Donaldson’s hiring as head coach of the Modesto Junior College softball team in August of 2019.
“There are 115 junior colleges in California,” he said. “I’m lucky to be a coach at one of them. I just hope I can do a great job, make the school proud and help players get to the next level.”
Donaldson formerly coached at Waterford (2016-19) and Ceres High (2007-14).
He teaches biology and anatomy at Johansen High School.
Ceres High amassed a 139-77 overall record, qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs six times and won two league titles during Donaldson’s eight-year tenure.
Waterford had a combined record of 66-35-2 and participated in postseason tournament all four years under Donaldson’s direction.
Waterford collected 19 victories and took third in the Division-V postseason tournament in 2019.
Donaldson has also helped develop talent for Stanislaus District high schools through his Ceres-based Tri-County Smash travel softball organization.
Donaldson was hired to rebuild Modesto JC’s softball program.
The Pirates didn’t field a team in 2019 due to a lack of numbers.
Modesto JC struggled to 2-37 overall record and finished last in the Big-9 Conference (0-24) in 2018.
“I want to change the reputation of MJC,” he said. “Softball is different. You can have a lot of success immediately if you have a talented pitcher and a well-rounded group of girls. There’s a ton of talent in this area. I hope I get lucky the first couple seasons and land a few blue-chip, elite athletes.”
Donaldson shouldn’t have any trouble adding talent to his program.
He’s made countless connections while running the Rainbow Fields Preseason Tournament the past 13 years.
“I got a good rapport with all the high school coaches that go to the tournament,” Donaldson said.