From Sutter to S.F. State for standout
When she was growing up, weekend road trips to San Francisco were the norm in Courtney Gravel's family.
She recalls staring up at the skyscrapers that seemed never-ending, going over the Bay Bridge that connects the East Bay to the City and playing on the beaches — she was already in love.
In October, the Gravel family made their most important trip to the Bay, not for leisure, or to watch the Giants' World Series run, rather to witness Courtney fulfill a lifelong dream.
Sutter High's four-year varsity, all-everything infielder has signed a letter of intent to play softball with the San Francisco State Gators in 2011, agreeing to a scholarship that will cover books and tuition.
Scholarships are awarded on a year-to-year basis according to Gravel, and her scholarship value could increase after her first couple of seasons.
San Francisco State competes in NCAA Division II as a member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, along with Chico State, Sonoma State, and CSU Monterey Bay, among others. The Gators appeared in the College World Series in 2005.
Gravel had offers on the table from Sonoma State, Cal State Bakersfield, Idaho State, Hawaii-Hilo and Iona (New York), but her love of the city she became attached to at an early age was the deciding factor.
"I love this place and it fits me so well," Gravel said. "I'm always open to something new. It will be a great experience. I love the coaches and the other girls. It was perfect."
Gravel will be playing softball in a city 2,377 times the size of Sutter, but that doesn't faze her at all.
She has competed at the varsity level in all four seasons with the Huskies and owns a career batting average of .485, leading the team in hits every year.
As a utility player she can excel at any spot in the infield, which is what Gator coach Cristina Byrne has planned for Gravel.
As a Husky, Gravel has been named All-State, All-Section and All-Area, but where she first garnered attention was with her competitive softball team, the Northern California Shockers.
From Oregon to New Jersey, Gravel hooked up with some of the best competition in the nation at showcases, gaining looks from prospective universities in the process.
During her official visit with the Gators in October, Gravel went to class with her teammates and even participated in practice. After that, she was sold.
"(Byrne) is a really good coach and knows what she's doing," Gravel said. "She really knows how to handle the team. It's an overall good program."
Sutter head coach Raoul Singh said Gravel is the one who knows how to handle herself on and off the field.
He noted that her dedication, like taking 200 ground balls and 200 swings per day, is what sets her apart from other players in the state.
"She could be playing Division I," Singh said. "She'll be a star and an All-American. She has the best bat in Northern California. She's a trendsetter and tremendous player."
In her first three seasons, Gravel led Sutter to a trio of Northern Section championships. Due to the fact that opposing batters were so late getting around on his pitchers (All-Area MVPs Jessica Moore, Jolene Graham), Singh moved Gravel to second base for defense.
Former Lindhurst High standout Jordan Stanaland is a freshman pitcher for the Gators and can't wait to have Gravel behind her in the infield and at the plate knocking in runs.
"She is going to help our program a lot because we are losing seven seniors," Stanaland said. "A lot of the girls on the team grew up together so it's cool I have somebody from where I'm from now. We'll be young, but pretty solid. I think it's going to be really great."