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A star is born
Nunes fills key role as CHS wins D-III title
Ceres High junior Callie Nunes compiled an impressive 20-3 record this spring with a 1.14 ERA, 239 strikeouts, two no-hitters and 10 shutouts. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Callie Danielle Nunes' performance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs vaulted her into an elite class.

The 112-pound junior pitcher dominated while leading Ceres High's varsity softball team to its second section crown on Thursday, ending a 21-year drought between titles.

Longtime family friend Danielle de la Porte was the star pitcher on the Bulldogs' first-ever section championship team in 1995.

Callie was named after Danielle. Her middle name was selected by her mother. Shawna Nunes was de la Porte's basketball coach at Ceres High.

"It's been an incredible journey," Callie said. "To be the second pitcher after Danielle to win a section title is a huge honor. She babysat me when I was younger. I watched her play. She's like an older sister to me."

"It's ironic," said Jimmy Dyson, Callie's longtime pitching coach. "Their families are so close."

"Obviously, she's really talented," de la Porte said. "She's mentally tough. We're so different, style-wise. She's a rise-ball pitcher. I was a down-ball pitcher. But we have the same tenacity. I don't think it's coincidental (she led the Bulldogs to a section crown). I know it's something she's always wanted to accomplish."

Nunes posted an impressive 20-3 record with a 1.14 ERA, 239 strikeouts, two no-hitters and 10 shutouts on the mound this spring.

"The girls had a lot more confidence in Callie this year," said Angela Durossette, head coach of the Bulldogs for the past two seasons. "She was more confident. There was a lot of pressure on her. In order for us to be successful, she had to throw well. I'm not surprised. She's built tough because she's a coach's daughter. She's one of the best pitchers around here. If anyone tells you different, they're lying to you."

"I'm really surprised at how far I've come this year," Callie said. "I reached all of my goals. My hard work paid off."

"I do consider her an elite pitcher," Ceres High star shortstop Nicole Bates said. "She did amazing this year. She tore it up. She was determined. I couldn't be more proud of her."

Callie was at her best when she faced the best in the playoffs.

Nunes went 5-1, beating Benicia twice, and Oakdale, Pioneer and American Canyon once.

"It was incredibly difficult," Nunes said. "The whole tournament was intense. With me being only 112 pounds, I had to put everything into every pitch. I was extremely tired and sore going into the final game. I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates. Mentally, they kept me going."

Callie matched a career high for strikeouts with 17 during third-seeded Ceres High's 5-3 win over No. 2 Oakdale in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs lost twice to the Mustangs during the regular season.

"I was in awe," Durossette said while talking about Nunes' latest performance against tradition-rich Oakdale.

Nunes and Ceres High outlasted No. 5 Benicia 3-2 in the finals.

Benicia forced the winner-take-all contest with an 8-1 victory.

Ceres High won the first meeting between the two teams, 1-0, in 10 innings.

"Callie got hot at the right time," Dyson said. "So did the team."

"We asked a lot of her," Durossette said. "She's going to throw lights out next year, too."

Dyson ranks Nunes among Ceres High's all-time greatest pitchers, along with de la Porte, Sarah Norwood, Brianne Ferguson, Amy Cucinella and Omaira Estremera.

Danielle and Sarah ranked second and third, respectively, on California's all-time career wins list upon graduation. The duo combined for 180 victories, including 91 by de la Porte.

Norwood pitched for the Bulldogs' section runner-up teams in 1993 and 1991.

Danielle, Sarah, Brianne, Amy and Omaira also took lessons from Dyson.

"I don't want to upset anyone," he said. "I've worked with some great pitchers over the years. They did special stuff. But you have to put Callie and Danielle at the top. You win a section title that separates you from the other girls. That's the tiebreaker."

"Jimmy and (former Ceres High athletic director) Phil de la Porte have both helped me incredibly," Nunes said. "Without those two men, I don't know where I'd be. I started working with Jimmy when I was eight. I was a little twig with big feet."

Nunes will add to her resume next spring as Ceres High strives to maintain its tradition of excellence.

The Bulldogs graduate five four-year players, including Bates, Mahlena O'Neal, Sabrina Baisdon, Mackenzie Veuve and Jessica Arreola.

"We're losing a lot of talent," Nunes said. "The biggest goal is to get as far as we can with what we have."

Callie made a non-binding verbal commitment to play softball for NAIA Division-II Concordia University.

"I'm very happy with my choice," Nunes said. "I love the area, school and business program."

"I've been working with Callie since she was eight," Dyson said. "She couldn't reach home plate when she was 11 years old. The reason she's got to this level is she works so hard. She keeps getting better and better. I wouldn't be surprised to see her get offers from bigger colleges over the summer."