After taking on the role of softball head coach just two short seasons ago, Mark Samford decides to move on.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Crescenta Valley High School softball coach Mark Samford stepped down from that position last week, citing personal reasons that he declined to detail.
“Everything’s fine,” said Samford, who resigns after two years of leading the program. “I need to invest time and effort elsewhere.”
Samford said it was an easy decision to make when he was confronted with it, and was something that weighed on his mind during this season.
The Lady Falcons went 14-10-1 in the 2013 regular season and lost their opening road playoff game to La Salle. The team went 20-6 in the regular season in 2012 and also lost its playoff opener to Notre Dame.
Including playoffs, Samford’s record as coach was 34-18-1 (.641 winning percentage). The program hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009, when it won two postseason games.
After longtime coach Dan Berry passed away in October 2011, Samford stepped in as interim coach for the 2012 season. The interim label was removed last summer when he accepted the job as head coach, working with assistants Ashleigh Viers-Gordillo and Zarah Montes.
He said he wasn’t thinking long-term when he accepted the position just that he enjoyed the players and the makeup of the team.
Next season, the Falcons will be loaded with talent and experience. From the starting lineup, only outfielder Brady Sanford and catcher Jessica Morena graduated this year, and just five players were seniors overall.
CV will have both pitchers back in Olivia Thayer and Chloe Fairbrother (although Fairbrother mainly plays first base). Most importantly, the Cookson sisters, centerfielder Hannah who led the team with seven home runs, and shortstop Hailey, will return to play for the Falcons.
The Falcons were 10-4 this season in the Pacific League. The four losses came at the hands of Arcadia and Burbank, led by pitchers Monica Baerg and Caitlyn Brooks for each team. CV will have to face both of them again next season, which would seem to be the biggest obstacles to earning a high enough seed to host a playoff game.
Samford would be willing to help the search for a new coach with girls’ athletic director Peter Kim.
“I would give them my honest opinion,” he said. “I’m open to it, but if they don’t [ask me to help with the search], I completely understand that.”
Samford will still be busy. He’s an assistant coach for the junior varsity football team, and is head coach of the freshman basketball team as well as assistant to the varsity squad. His freshman team won league this past season with a perfect 14-0 record.
Viers-Gordillo, a 2008 CV graduate, was a standout first baseman for the Falcons in her time. Samford said she is finishing up a degree in college, and that any decision about her becoming a possible head coach would depend on her future goals.
“I think she has a future in it for sure, if that’s the way she wants to travel,” he said. “We talked a little bit about it and what her plans are, and maybe it makes more sense in the future.”
In any case, the program will once again have to transition into a new era, its second in three seasons.
“Crescenta Valley softball was here before I got there, and it’s going to be around long after I’m gone,” Samford said. “People like to think they’re important … I was just a guy holding a flame. There will be another person to do that.”