More than 11 months removed from their last official game, senior pitcher Callie Nunes and the Concordia Irvine University softball team will make their long-awaited return to the field this Friday when they play host to Vanguard in a non-conference doubleheader.
The Eagles had their 2020 campaign end prematurely on March 13 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Concordia won 10 of 11 games at home on its way to compiling a 17-5 overall record.
“The CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Association) shut everything down fast (for the 2020-21 academic year),” said Nunes, a 2017 Ceres High School grad. “I’m very thankful Concordia and the PacWest have not done that. They’re giving us the opportunity to continue schooling and sports. I’m not ready to give up this stage of my life.”
Nunes and the Eagles played two exhibition games at the University of San Diego on Feb. 12.
“Obviously nothing went wrong and we were able to compete, (but) being together as a team and playing against someone else gave us that push we all needed, missed, and were itching to get back,” she said.
Nunes pitched a no-hitter through four innings during the first game, which concluded in the 11th inning.
“Finally getting able to play was actually surreal.” she said. “All us girls were pretty much on the same page and said that we weren’t going to believe it until we were there and playing.”
Concordia will face visiting Vanguard at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at Eagles Field.
The Eagles are ranked 11th in the 2021 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division-II Preseason Poll.
Concordia won back-to-back PacWest Conference Championships in each of the last two full seasons. The Eagles also won 17 games during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.
The Eagles will be vying for their straight PacWest title as well as a third appearance in the NCAA DII West Region playoffs after hosting the regional tournament in 2018 and 2019.
The 2021 season will run through April barring any COVID-19 related setbacks.
“The first goal is to play,” Nunes said. “The most important goal is to win. We want to show everybody else that hard work in difficult times will put you ahead in life.”
Nunes compiled a 7-2 record with a 1.37 ERA and 76 strikeouts last spring.
She earned PacWest Pitcher of the Week honors three times.
A six-time All-American, Nunes entered her junior season ranked third in program history in career shutouts (22) and fourth in strikeouts (555). She’s tied for first in career saves (8).
Nunes helped lead Concordia to the Super Regional for the first time in program history, a 47-8 overall record and its second straight PacWest Conference title in 2019.
The Eagles claimed the West Regional championship and climbed to No. 1 in the NFCA West Regional rankings for the first time.
Concordia reeled off 18 straight wins heading into Super Regionals.
A finalist for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division-II National Player and Pitcher of the Year awards, Nunes was recognized by the Division-II Conference Commissioners Association, NFCA and PacWest Conference.
She was named the D2CCA West Region Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season. She earned first-team, all-region honors as well.
Nunes was selected to the NFCA First-Team All-Region Team for the second consecutive year.
She was also a repeat winner of the PacWest Conference Pitcher of the Year award.
Nunes tied for first in NCAA DII with 33 victories and was fourth in strikeouts (266) while posting a 1.34 ERA. She had four no-hitters.
Nunes was named to the 2020 Preseason All-PacWest Softball Team. Concordia was picked to finish first in 2020 PacWest Softball Preseason Poll by the conference’s head coaches.
Nunes played three seasons of varsity softball at Ceres High.
She helped propel the Bulldogs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown in 2016, ending a 21-year drought between titles.
Nunes and third-seeded Ceres High compiled a 5-1 record in the playoffs.
She posted a 20-3 record with a 1.14 ERA, 239 strikeouts, two no-hitters and 10 shutouts on the year.
Nunes amassed a 20-3 record with a 0.52 ERA, 291 strikeouts, one no-hitter and 11 shutouts during her final season with the Bulldogs.
She ranked fourth in the state in strikeouts.
Ceres High qualified for the postseason for the sixth straight year and captured its fourth consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship.
Nunes won the WAC Pitcher of the Year award for the second time.
She was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Medium Schools First Team.
Nunes had a career record of 51-13 with 686 strikeouts, four no-hitters and 26 shutouts.
“I’m honored to say I went to Ceres High School and played sports there,” Nunes stated. “It was truly a blessing.”