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Ferguson excels at Sac State
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Brianne Ferguson used to call home and cry to her parents after every game during her freshman year at San Jose State. The 2001 Ceres High graduate became even more discouraged after a tense meeting with her coach at the end of the season. Ferguson almost walked away from a sport she has played since the age of eight.

"They were not making it fun anymore so I wasn't going to play anymore," said Ferguson, a 5-foot-7 pitcher. "I was going to concentrate on school at go to Stanislaus."

With support from her parents Mark and Cyndi and former coach Dennis Gomes of the California Grapettes, Ferguson decided to keep playing. She transferred to another Division I school and received another scholarship. The move to Sacramento has paid off.

"It wasn't working out right so I left," Ferguson said. "It's so much better at Sacramento State. They actually care about softball here."

Mark and Cyndi watched their daughter succeed this year. Brianne, a junior, surpassed last season's win total. She had a team-best 16-11 record with a 1.58 ERA. Ferguson also posted nine shutouts and fanned 98 batters. She had a streak where she allowed just seven earned runs in 911/3 innings.

Ferguson earned Pacific Coast Softball Conference pitcher of the week honors on April 14. She won seven of nine games in conference play.

"She got better each time out for us," said Sacramento coach Kathy Strahan.

Ferguson had a satisfactory sophomore season. She compiled a 12-12 record with a 2.31 ERA as Sacramento's No. 2 starter. Ferguson had 94 strikeouts in 157.2 innings. She struck out at least five batters on 10 occasions and had a streak of 31.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

Ferguson struggled during her first year in college as she went 9-18 with a 2.90 ERA.

She was hit in the face by a line drive and sustained a fractured cheekbone and damage to some of her teeth at Oregon State. She was sidelined for two weeks and had to wear a protective mask when she returned. Ferguson won her final three starts of the season against Pacific, eighth-ranked Stanford and 14th-ranked Fresno State. Each of those teams advanced to the NCAA Regionals.

"I could have handled it differently my freshman year," Ferguson said.

"I'm definitely glad I went through it. It has helped me become a better person. I've grown so much."

Ferguson worked extra hard in the offseason.

"This year I went to a new pitching coach," Ferguson said. "He (former U.S. Olympic Team fastpitch player Steve Padilla) helped me refine my drop ball. I get more ground balls and eliminate the big hits."

Ferguson worked with Padilla in Riverbank. Each session lasted 11/2 to 2 hours.

"I went to him five or six times," Ferguson said. "They were really intense workouts.

"He's helped me a tremendous amount."

Added Strahan: "She wants to get better. You can see the fight in her on the mound."

Ferguson has improved each year in college. So have her teams.

"My goal is to better my stats from my previous year," she said. "I've done that."

Sacramento State won 32 games this season.

"We won 30 games my first year," Ferguson said. "They won 18 games the year before I came."

Ferguson has become a leader.

"She's a hard worker," Strahan said. "She does everything we ask of her. She fits in great with this team's philosophy and the way we run this program."

Ferguson is an excellent student. She has maintained a 3.2 GPA.

The Liberal Studies major wants to become an elementary school teacher. She's carrying 17 units, including 15 from five classes--theater, math, music, history and kineseology--and two for softball.

Sacramento State concluded the regular season with eight-straight losses. Ferguson didn't pitch against Santa Clara this past weekend due to a non-related softball injury. A steel door was inadvertently closed on Ferguson's right hand as she placed it on the doorjamb of a dugout while getting a drink at a nearby water fountain.

"I had two big cuts under two fingernails and thumb," Ferguson said. "It had to be drained."

The Hornets tied for third with Portland State in the PCSC at 10-10 and compiled a 32-28 overall record.

"I'm not disappointed," Ferguson said. "We had a good year."

Ferguson should be just as dominant next year.

"I know I can do it now," Ferguson said. "Before, I was afraid to go inside to the big hitters. Now, I have it in my head I'm going to be better than them even if I'm not. I'm more confident."

Ferguson is having fun again.

Ferguson played for the Ceres High varsity softball team for four years. She led the Bulldogs to four-consecutive league titles. Ferguson was a first-team, all-state selection and Central California Conference MVP as a senior after posting a .432 batting average, 0-12 ERA and 241 strikeouts. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier