The Ceo trio
Brad and Kim Ceo are the envy of softball parents everywhere, but not because their daughters are such gifted players.
It’s just that the Ceos have the rare opportunity to catch all three of their high school kids in action at the same time and at the same site each game.
Sisters Britney, Courtney and Natalie Ceo all play for the Bear River varsity softball team, which means not only are their parents able to see all three take the field each time out, but also they are able to substantially cut down on carpooling and gas money.
“We save a lot,” said Brad Ceo, father of the Bruins’ trio, “except we’ve got another one who’s a seventh-grader who doesn’t play here. So they’re not all here yet.
“We tried to have a full softball team, but it just turned out to be a bowling team. The funny thing is they’re all really high-level bowlers. They’ve been looked at by NCAA Division I schools. It’s just a matter of which one they want to do.”
Right now, the Ceo trio just wants to help one of the hottest teams in Northern California win the Pioneer Valley League championship; then they look to make some noise in the postseason.
By the time Stephanie Ceo joins the program, her two oldest sisters will no longer be wearing the cardinal and gray.
And that’s why, the Ceos say, this season is so special.
“This year is really the last year we can all do this,” said Britney, a senior who has already thrown three no-hitters this spring. “Next year I’m off to college, and I don’t know if we’re going to even be in the same area again.”
Britney is leaning toward attending Sacramento State University and transferring to the University of California, Davis, where she plans to become a nurse. She said she’s not sure whether she’ll play ball for Sac State next season. But considering the résumé she’s building at Bear River, the Hornets would likely be happy to have one of the top pitchers in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Britney owns an 8-1 record with six shutouts and a 0.59 earned run average so far this spring. She’s also racked up 55 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched, while allowing only seven runs, 13 walks and 20 hits.
As her father suggested, she’s also an accomplished bowler, but Britney says she’s not likely to pursue that sport at the college level, as most of the top bowling programs are in the Midwest.
“I don’t know if (bowling) helps my pitching, but it definitely is the same type of motion,” Britney said. “So, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have your own skilled sisters backing you up in the field, including Courtney, a freshman shortstop who leads the team with 25 assists while committing just two errors in producing a .941 fielding percentage. She’s already receiving recruiting letters from several schools around the country.
“It was exciting,” Courtney said of being contacted by prospective colleges. “It’s very exciting. Seeing Britney get letters, even though she’s older, it kind of made me jealous. So with me getting one of my own, I was so excited that I was jumping up and down.
“And Britney is happy for me, which is great because I’ve always looked up to her.”
During the latest of the three no-hitters Britney has thrown, it was Courtney she looked to in handling the hardest hit of the game – a sizzler to short Ð to keep the slate clean of any base hits.
“I have to admit, it’s nice to know she’s right there in my hip pocket,” Britney said. “She’s done that more than once or even a few times.”
The confidence the Ceos carry for each other is clear and was built through years of playing together in American Softball Association programs since they were as young as 8.
Natalie, a junior infielder and outfielder, says the natural sibling rivalry with the sisters takes a back seat when it comes time to doing what’s best for the team. Her older sister, she says, is a big reason why she was able to make varsity squad this season.
“It’s nice having an older sister who, if I don’t know about something, will tell me and help me with things,” Natalie said. “She has experience playing varsity softball in all three years she’s been at Bear River, so it’s made it easier for me to cope with some things.
“You just can’t take offense to things you say to each other. If we bark at each other, it’s not because we’re mad at each other. It’s just that we’re thinking of what’s best for the team.”
Kim Ceo says that while her girls are clearly competitive, their desire to win usually ends up being a motivational tool rather than a way to instigate a sibling spat.
“They actually push each other to be better players,” Kim said. “It’s not a vindictive thing. They definitely push each other to raise their level of play.”
Duane Zauner has coached the Bear River softball team for the past 13 years and has also served as a football coach at the south county campus since the school opened its doors in 1986. He said he’s seen a lot of things in 21 years of coaching but never three siblings on the same squad. One thing he has noticed is that the familiarity of the family members seems to have helped the team’s overall chemistry. And the big sister seems to thrive in her role as a team captain.
“I think so,” Zauner said. “And you know, Britney has really stepped up to be a team leader this year, which is why she’s a captain.
“Earlier this year we were in the weight room and I divided them into groups, and Britney went over to three freshmen and said, ‘OK, I’m working with you.’ That’s what a leader is, and that’s what she’s doing.”
Britney said she has no doubt that not only is this Bear River team the most tightknit group she’s played with, but also the team that holds the most promise for a potential playoff run. And having her sisters alongside plays a key role in both areas.
“I think because we’ve all played together for so long that it definitely helps our chemistry,” Britney said. “We’re going to have our sisterly fights, but we’re definitely good at keeping it off the field. Any sibling will tell you that that’s hard, but being able to do that helps the team.
“We’ve never had this good of a team, playing together with such good team chemistry. I don’t think we’ve ever had a team with this much going for it. If we didn’t win the league championship, I don’t want to say it would be disappointing, but it would be disheartening.”
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
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