By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Unforgettable campaign
Placeholder Image
Fourteen years ago, Kari Abbey, Danielle de la Porte and their Ceres High School varsity softball teammates did the unexpected by winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship.

The 1995 Bulldogs will be inducted into Ceres High's Athletic Hall of Fame this Saturday at 1 p.m.

Five other teams and coaches, and 31 athletes from the past will also be enshrined during the special ceremony.

Third-seeded Ceres High's improbable run in the playoffs started with a 2-1 upset win over top-ranked Colfax in the opening round and culminated with an 8-2 victory against No. 2 East Union in the finals at the Sacramento Softball Complex.

Two years earlier, East Union topped Ceres High twice on its way to claiming the section crown.

"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," former Bulldogs head coach Mike Jones. "All I did was fill out the lineup card. We were solid all the way around. The girls just never gave in. That was a fun year."

The Bulldogs were blessed with talent in every facet of the game, including offense, defense and pitching.

Ceres High's starting lineup featured seniors Kari Abbey (shortstop) and Mattie McLelland (center field), sophomores Danielle de la Porte (pitcher), Melissa Nicholas (first base), Lisa Cucinella (second base), Jessica Weston (third base) and Jessica Addison (right field), and freshmen Janae Gruff (left field) and Michelle Parmley (catcher).

Beth Maestas (senior), Tia Shipley (junior), Brandy McMullin (junior) and Melisa Bittancourt (sophomore) were also on the team. "The chemistry was good," Jones said. "Our pitcher was amazing. We made plays on defense they didn't even make in the pros. With Kari out there, anything was possible."

Abbey, the Valley Oak League MVP, was a part of the 1993 team that lost in the section finals to East Union. The Lancers won the best-of-three series after dropping the first game.

In the rematch, Kari collected a bases-loaded double as Ceres High erupted for five runs en route to building a 7-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning.

"She was just a great leader," Jones said.

Danielle, the league's Co-MVP pitcher, tallied six strikeouts and one walk in the section title game. She finished the year with a 27-5 record. "Outwardly, I never really saw anything rattle her," Jones said. "She could do whatever she wanted out there. She had faith in her teammates."

The Bulldogs also had a solid coaching staff. Local pitching guru Jimmy Dyson and volunteers Phil de la Porte and Joe Cucinella provided assistance.

"We had a lot of support," Jones said.

The blue Sac-Joaquin Section title banner Ceres High brought home from Sacramento is displayed on a wall inside the school's main gymnasium.

"It was nuts after the game," Jones said. "It was very emotional for all of us. The girls were elated. I was stunned. We won because we overcame a lot of adversity earlier on in the season."

The Bulldogs won 84 percent of their games and finished as Cal-High Sports' No. 3 ranked team in the state in 1995. Ceres High didn't lose a single contest in May.

"They loved to have fun, but got serious when it was time," Jones said.