Cal-Hi Sports has selected Pioneer's Linda Merrida as its state Medium Schools Softball Coach of the Year.
Merrida, named The Bee's Coach of the Year earlier this month, led Pioneer to a 24-6 overall record and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship this season.
After upsetting Whitney 1-0 in nine innings in the first round, then losing to Antelope, the Patriots rebounded to win their last four games, including beating Antelope twice, to claim the school's second section softball title. Pioneer also won the D-IV title in 2006 with Linda's daughter, Christina, playing a leading role.
"We lost five senior starters but this team had chemistry and made the sacrifices," Merrida told Cal-Hi's Mark Tennis. "That's what made this year so special because I didn't expect them to go this far."
Merrida, whose key assistant is husband Bryan, admitted surprise at the award.
"I really wasn't expecting anything like this because it's not a one-person show," Merrida said. "We do it for the love of softball, the great kids we've had come through, and we want to put Pioneer on the map."
Tennis also noted that Merrida, while coaching at Woodland, was part of one of the best softball games in state history.
Woodland beat Fairfield and Alicia Hollowell, one of the greatest pitchers in section history, 1-0 in 30 innings in the 2001 D-I playoffs. The game was played over two days and Hollowell struck out a state-record 61 batters in the losing cause.
She lost to Bee Pitcher of the Year Kelly Anderson, who matched Hollowell pitch for pitch, inning for inning, before going on to star at Cal.
Melissa Burgarin-Espinsoza of Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, was the Small School Coach of the Year.
Chino's Mike Smith was the overall State Coach of the Year.
For the complete release, go to www.calhisports.com