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Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame returns with star-studded class

SALINAS, CALIF. (KION-TV): After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, The Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame returns with an illustrious class of 2022.

There will be 13 new inductees that will get their bronze plaque placed on the Hall of Fame Memorial Wall at Rabobank Stadium. The plaques will list the inductees' career highlights and their connection to the Central Coast.

Here is a complete list of the newest inductees that will be inducted on Saturday night.

Monica Abbot, (Softball)

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

One of the most decorated softball pitchers started her Olympic journey at North Salinas High School in 1999. She led the Vikings to three straight Central Coast Section titles and was one of the top high school pitchers in the country.

She was recruited heavily before choosing to play her college softball at the University of Tennessee. She pitched for the Volunteers from 2004-2007. Abbott led the NCAA in wins in all four years for the Lady Vols. She also threw an astounding 23 no-hitters and six perfect games. She also helped the Volunteers get to their first three Women's College World Series appearances from 2005 to 2007. Her uniform number 14 is retired by the University of Tennessee.

After she graduated from Tennessee, Abbot turned professional and played on two U.S. Olympic Teams in 2008 and 2020. She is a two-time Olympic silver medalist, including pitching the only perfect game in Olympic history back at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

She played in National Pro Fastpitch League with the Chicago Bandits (2011-2015) and the Scrap Yard Fast Pitch (2016-2018). She is a five-time NPF Champion and remains the all-time leader in wins and strikeouts.

She plays overseas for Toyota Red Terries in the Japan Professional Softball League. She is a five-time JSL MVP and has won six JSL titles for the Red Terries.

Matt Alvarado (Wrestling Official-Referee)

Photo Courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Matt Alvarado was an icon in the local wrestling community. He won back-to-back league individual titles for Salinas High School in 1955 and 56.

His impact has been felt in the community. In 1981 he started the Salinas Valley Freestyle Wrestling Club, which developed many champions and community leaders. He was honored with a tournament named "The Matt Alvarado Invitational," in which local wrestling programs still compete in. He was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame for work as a coach, referee, and commissioner of different leagues and organizations in 2010.

Alvarado passed away in 2019 at 84. His legacy lives on in the next generation of Central Coast wrestlers.

Steve Clayton- (Coach/Athletic Director)

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

You cannot mention the Palma High School Athletic program without Steve Clayton. In his senior year at Palma, Clayton was named Athlete of the Year and class valedictorian for the class of 1976. He would return to his alma mater in 1991 as a teacher, coach and athletic director.

For 23 years, Clayton served as the athletic director and helped build the Chieftains into an athletic powerhouse. He was named CCS Athletic Director of the Year in 2010 and awarded the CCS Distinguished Service Award in 2011.

He was also the head of the Palma Athletic Council, where he helped organize fundraising for a new synthetic track and turf football field along with a new hardwood floor. Clayton passed away in 2013. The gym at Palma was renamed in his honor in 2014.

Jennifer Deering, (Athlete/Softball):

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Jennifer Deering was a three-sport athlete at North Salinas High School. She played varsity all four years in volleyball, basketball, and softball. However, she made her mark on the softball diamond for the Vikings.

She was one of the elite softball pitchers in the Central Coast Section, striking out more than 800 hitters during her four years. She had 49 strikeouts in one game. You read that correctly, as that game went 34 innings.

She played softball and basketball at UC Berkeley from 2000-2003. She pitched for the Golden Bears on their 2002 Women's College World Series team that won the national championship. In 78 appearances, she went 53-5.

Deering continued her impact as a coach. She served as an assistant coach for Boston University from 2006-09, where she was a part of two conference title teams, and the Terriers made an NCAA tournament appearance in 2009.

She returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to become the head coach at Piedmont High School. She served as the head coach from 2013-2019. She led the Highlanders to their first league crown in 13 years.

She is currently an assistant coach for Santa Clara University.

Terry Espinoza, (Softball and Wrestling Coach)

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

You cannot mention the history of Alisal High School without Terry Espinoza. Espinoza went to Colorado State University on a full-ride wrestling scholarship.

He was a three-sport student-athlete for the Rams. He wrestled and played baseball for all four years. Espinoza also played football for three years. He holds the school record for most varsity letters at 11.

In 1968, Espinoza joined the faculty at Alisal and later became the head coach of the Trojan's wrestling team. During his 16 years at the helm, Espinoza guided the Trojans to four league championships and the 1975 Central Coast Section Title. He coached the softball team to four league titles and served as athletic director for six years.

He officiated high school wrestling from 1985 to 1993. He was honored with the lifetime achievement award by the California Wrestling Hall of Fame.

David Estrada- Soccer

Photo Courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

David Estrada was born in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico but his soccer stardom blossomed in Salinas.

In his senior year at Alisal High, Estrada led the nation with 66 goals, including a game-high 11 goals. He played his college soccer at UCLA from 2006 to 2009. As a walk-on freshman, Estrada was the team's top scorer and named Soccer America's National Freshman of the Year. He was a second-team All-Pac 10 selection that year and a first-team All-Pac 10 as a senior.

He was drafted 10th by the Seattle Sounders in the 2010 Major League Soccer Draft. During his rookie season, Estrada became the first Mexican-born player to score a hat trick in the MLS. He played for the Sounders for four seasons, including a loan stint with D.C. United. He has scored five career goals in MLS.

He last played for the New Mexico United of USL in 2020.

Chuck Filice, (Coach):

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Chuck Filice was an influential coach throughout local high school and college sports. He was the Hartnell quarterback in 1964-65 and transferred to the University of Pacific for the next two years.

His coaching career started at Alisal High School, where he was the varsity football & baseball coach, with his 1974 baseball team as Region IV champions.

Filice went to Salinas High, where he served as an assistant football coach. He was a part of the staff that saw the Cowboys make the 1979 CCS Title Game.

In 1980, he began a decade-long stint at his alma mater, Hartnell College, where he served as an assistant baseball and football coach. During Filice's time at Hartnell, The Panthers won eight conference championships, two state titles (1981-82), and one state title in baseball.

The Panthers went 84-21-3 and, from 1980-83, went 39-4-2 on the gridiron. In 1984, Filice and Frank Geller took over the Hartnell baseball team when head coach Tony Teresa was hospitalized and unable to travel to the state playoffs.

They won their semifinal game and beat College of the Siskiyous, 14-7, in the state championship game.

Lindsay Schutzler- Softball:

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Lindsay Schutzler was the definition of a power bat in softball.

While at Notre Dame, she won three straight league batting titles with a career average of .456 and led the Spirits to three consecutive CCS titles. She earned All-State and Louisville Slugger All-America honors during her junior and senior seasons.

She also took her softball talents to play at the University of Tennessee for four seasons (2004-2007). Schutzler was a three-time All-American and three-time Academic All-American. She holds the program records for hits, triples, runs scored, and total bases. She ranks fifth all-time in Lady Vols history with a .383 batting average.

Schutzler represented the United States and won a gold medal in the 2006 World University Games in Taiwan.

In 2008, she was selected number one overall by the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch Draft.

Alan Shipnuck, Writer:

Photo courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Born and raised in Salinas, Alan Shipnuck's childhood dream was to be a sports journalist. Little did he know that his work would lead him to become a Hall of Famer.

Shipnuck started his career with the Salinas Californian. He worked there while attending Salinas High School. He honed his craft, covering local high school sporting events. He went to UCLA, where he wrote for The Daily Bruin and covered UCLA Bruins athletics.

After graduation in 1996, his dream was realized when he became the youngest staff writer in Sports Illustrated history. He would be one of the primary golf writers for S.I. for two decades covering major championships plus Ryder and President's Cups.

He wrote two dozen cover stories, including two "Sportsmen of the Year" cover stories of Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Farve (2007) and U.S. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps (08). Shipnuck has written eight books, including his newest one, "Phil." He will be a co-author of the memoir, "Like A River To The Sea: Heartbreak and Hope in the Wake of United 93." The book will be released on Sep. 5.

After 29 years at Golf Magazine/Sports Illustrated, Shipnuck co-founded his golf media company, Fire Pit Collective, in 2021. He still lives in Carmel and will be an assistant coach to the Carmel High School varsity girl's basketball team.

Terri Sonniksen- (Coach/Athletic Director):

Photo Courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Terri Sonniksen helped build Norte Dame High School from the ground up. She served as the athletic director and a teacher from 1975-2016.

She helped the school build a softball field on campus, added a weight room, and founded the Booster Club in 1980.

During the early era of Title IX, the Spirits added track and field, cross country, swimming and diving, soccer, field hockey, and water polo to their athletic program.

She coached golf, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and track. During her tenure as athletic director, The Spirits won a league or section title in basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, track, and tennis.

Sonniksen received numerous honors, including the California State Athletic Director's Association AD of the Year in 2008-09, and the CCS Athletic Director of the year in 1996-97.

Susan Springer Garcia, (Athlete/Track):

During the late 1970s, Susan Springer Garcia was one of the most dominant student-athletes in the Salinas Valley.

Springer Garcia won four straight CCS titles in discus during her high school career at Salinas High School (1976-79). She also won three shot put titles in her sophomore, junior, and senior years. She set CCS records in both events as a junior and broke both records again as a senior.

She finished inside the top five for both events when she competed in the state championships.

Springer Garcia got a track scholarship to UC Berkeley. She set school records in the shot put and discus.

She represented the United States in the Junior Olympics in Mexico City.

Ferd Tihista- Judo

Photo Courtesy of Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Ferd Tihista was a bodybuilder pioneer. A graduate of Salinas High School, Ferd and his wife started Apollo Studios' bodybuilding chain up and down the West Coast that prided itself on natural bodybuilding without any muscle enhancement.

He won nearly every bodybuilding competition you can think of back in the 1950s and 60s. Tihista taught judo into his 90s.

He competed in the World Masters Heavyweight Judo Championships until he was 82. He was a regular in the Senior Masters Judo Championships and was a USA National Judo Champion.

1976 Salinas Little League Softball All-Star Team

Photo courtesy of Tina Hester Cary Thompson

The 1976 Salinas Little League Softball All-Star Team will also be inducted. The team won the 1976 Little League Softball World Series by defeating Sturgeon Bay Little League, 4-1. They were the first youth baseball or softball team to win a Little League World Series.

The players on that team were Kristie Sullivan, Tina Hester, Sandy Fuerte, Karre Melchisedech, Leslie Deaton, Hopi Cota, Renita Gachete, Debbie Cortez, Charlene Armstrong, Robin Aman, Stella Garcia, Diana Alvarez, Teresa Ortiz and Clara Mejia.

The coaches on that team who will be inducted are Stan Silva, Fred Dilbeck, and Kathy Silva.

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