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Homegrown talent shines brightly
For the rest of their lives, Ceres High grads Omaira Estremera, Meghan Franksen and Jennifer Arnold will remember the year in which they propelled the Cal State Stanislaus softball program to new heights.

They played significant roles in leading the 2007 Warriors to their first-ever NCAA Division II World Series appearance, West Region title and 50-win season.

"I had a blast," said Jen, who started at first base as a freshman. "I knew we'd have a special season because we all clicked. That made our team better."

"It was the funnest year I've ever had," said Omaira, a senior pitcher.

Estremera, Franksen and Arnold returned home from the national tournament on May 20 without the results they wanted but have a lot to be proud of.

"It was cool knowing we could all be there together," Arnold said. "It's a dream come true."

Said Estremera: "Just to be a part of it was awesome. It was a great experience just to see what other teams looked like out of California. We faced better competition."

The Warriors compiled a 1-2 record at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.

Stanislaus opened tourney play with a 3-0 victory over University of Nebraska at Omaha. Franksen, the Warriors' shortstop, singled and scored a run.

"I was shaking during pre-game warmups," Arnold said. "I couldn't believe we were playing in the World Series. It was like playing professionally on TV. It was the real deal. I was so excited. We proved to everybody that we belonged there."

The Warriors lost 1-0 in the second round to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the eventual World Series champion.

Estremera pitched a gem of a game. She gave up three hits with five strikeouts and no walks in six innings. Omaira retired 11 batters in order at one point.

Arnold accounted for one of Stanislaus' seven hits.

"We were so close," Estremera said. "It just bugs me."

Columbus State University eliminated the Warriors from the national tournament. The Cougars, who ranked No. 1 in the NFCA poll heading into the World Series, posted a 7-1 win over Stanislaus.

"I was standing there thinking about my past years in the final inning. And tears started running down my face," said Estremera, who made her final appearance with the Warriors when she came on in relief in the fifth inning.

Estremera, Franksen and Arnold all had productive campaigns for the Warriors.

Arnold and Franksen both earned second-team, all-West Region and California Collegiate Athletic Association honors.

Franksen set single-season school records in runs scored (53), doubles (19), RBIs (51) and total bases (118). Meghan had a .347 batting average, four triples, .584 slugging percentage and .412 on-base percentage.

Arnold hit .311 with eight homers, nine doubles, one triple, seven stolen bases, 44 runs and 49 RBIs. She had a .492 slugging percentage and .392 on-base percentage.

"I'm not to into looking into my stats," Jen said. "If I'm benefiting my team, that's even better."

Estremera was an all-CCAA honorable-mention selection.

The southpaw amassed a 13-11 record with a 2.39 ERA, three shutouts, 118 strikeouts and 61 walks.

Omaira will graduate from Stanislaus in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business management.

"I'm going to miss my teammates and friends," said Estremera, who plans to offer private pitching lessons and coach at Ceres High School in the near future. "We got along so well. There wasn't that much drama. That's pretty good for girls."

Said Arnold: "We're losing four strong players. That's going to hurt us. But our coach (Jan Schefkowitz) is a great recruiter. We're still going to be good."

Playoff berths. League championships. Conference awards.

Estremera, Franksen and Arnold enjoyed triumphant careers as members of the Ceres High School varsity softball program.

They've also made an impact at Stanislaus, which finished12th nationally this season. The Warriors went 50-20 overall, 23-13 in the CCAA.