Updated: Apr 22
Valley College softball’s season fell into failure and coach Greg Venger is mainly at fault.
Opinion by Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor
Valley College softball has fizzled from adequate performances and failed its coaches, players and athletic department with a negligent attempt to appear competitive.
The Monarchs presented a promising product on the softball field in 2019, one that would inspire optimism for years ahead. A 23-12 record closed a triumphant campaign for Valley in which they should have entered the playoffs, but were spurned from the opportunity to compete after not being selected for the Play-In or Regional. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Valley held a respectable 7-13 record before the season was scrapped, splitting the final 10 games they played 5-5. The downfall of the 2022 campaign now sees the Monarchs sit at 6-22 and without a win in conference play. The results point directly at the man who leads the program.
Coach Greg Venger has been at the helm of the Monarchs (6-22, 0-10 WSC East) since 2018. In a press release from August 2017, Valley claimed that Venger would transition and leave his role as Valley women’s soccer coach to focus on his new job — head coach of the softball program.
However, there was never a shift from the pitch to the diamond and Venger remains an associate head coach of the soccer program while continuing his other occupation — athletic director of Cleveland High School. He oversaw winning years in 2018 and 2019, but the dissent into a stage below mediocrity has left the team in disarray. The overscheduled routine of the man in charge of two sports and a high school athletics program has caused softball to falter and entrust the brunt of the responsibility to assistant coaches Andrea Contreras and Brianna Velasquez — an unfair task for individuals working without the salary nor the job title that Venger receives.
Scheduling also affects the players. Monday and Wednesday practices — planned for 3 p.m. — are not mandatory, and only a handful of players show up.
College students, especially student-athletes, can have an overbearing slate of activities throughout their days, but in a collegiate sports environment — whether it is at the NCAA or JuCo level — the drive to compete and win games needs to be the dominant focus. In the 2-year or 4-year college sports world, coaches are liable for two halves of their job: setting up the student-athletes for success and undertaking a sports program to help bring it to relevance. At Valley, neither is being fulfilled. Despite the national attention that would be shown at a high-profile school, Venger and Co. are disappointing the student body with its mistake-filled performances on the field, at the plate and on the mound.
Averaging almost eight runs allowed per game, the Monarchs would need to hit their way out of any game played in 2022. Poor enough to rank 65th out of the 70 teams in the state, their 7.98 earned run average has proven keeping runs off the scoreboard to be impossible.
If the pitchers are unable to perform, the Monarchs’ hitters would need to pick up the slack, but somehow, someway, the lows sink further in the batter’s box. A .236 batting average, with two home runs and 79 RBIs, reads like the stat-line of one player, but at Valley, it represents a 15-woman effort at the plate.
Valley’s batting average ranks even lower than the pitchers do in their main category as the second-lowest in the state, as well as compiling the third-lowest number of hits in the state with 145.
Non-mandatory practice breeds faulty performance, which corresponds to the lack of victories on the field.
Yes, some players do want to win, there is no doubt about that. Not one person wants to lose; it is against the human condition to purposefully fail. But the way Valley softball operates needs to change, or else further damage will be made to the college’s athletics, the players’ morale and the coaches’ reputations.