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SRJC set to induct 20th class into school's athletics Hall of Fame

Santa Rosa Junior College is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, but also inducting the 20th class into the Bear Cub Athletic Trust Hall of Fame. A dinner and ceremony is scheduled for April 7.

Started in 1995, the event began as an annual happening, but has since evolved into an every-other-year dinner and celebration. Organizers are marking the 20th staging of the event by not only celebrating the induction class of 2018, but inviting Hall of Famers from every class since 1995 to attend and celebrate Bear Cubs athletics.

Entering the Hall of Fame this year are the 2001 and 2002 men’s soccer teams. The 2001 squad went 16-0 in the Bay Valley Conference before knocking off three-time state champion Santa Ana College to win the California Community College state championship and earn the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s No. 1 ranking.

“This team was without question the toughest, most competitive I have ever coached,” longtime soccer coach Marty Kinahan said.

The 2002 squad turned around and repeated as Bay Valley Conference champions and went on to repeat as state champions with a come-from-behind win against Fresno City College in the championship game. The Bear Cubs were down 0-2 before rallying for a 3-2 win to take back-to-back state titles and finish with an overall record of 21-1-3. The championship game marked the fourth time in the Bear Cubs’ playoff run that they had come from behind to win.

The other honorees are:

Bill Strong graduated from Ukiah High with an outstanding athletic pedigree but was injured most of his freshman-year football season. He made up for it his sophomore year by hauling in awards and leading the Bear Cubs to a 10-2 record and a trip to the JC Bowl game in Bakersfield. Strong was named Camino Norte Conference defensive lineman of the year and received All-Bay Area Defensive first-team, All-State defensive first-team and All-American defensive first-team honors.

Strong was also a two-time Camino Norte heavyweight wrestling champion, running up a career record of 38-12. Strong went on to play two seasons on the defensive line at the University of Pacific in Stockton.

Katie Franci graduated from Analy High School in 2005 and brought her basketball skills to SRJC, where she led the Bear Cubs to a 23-13 record and a trip to the Elite Eight her freshman season while picking up All-Bay Valley first-team and All-State first-team honors. In her sophomore season, she averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game en route to her second All-State first-team selection. Franci is the only player in SRJC women’s basketball history to be selected first- team all-state two years in a row.

Franci holds career records for scoring (1,044 points, third all-time), rebounding (802, first all-time), steals (171, second all time) and assists (164, third all-time).

Franci transferred to Humboldt State University where she was a two-time All-American, setting the single-season record in rebounds: 319 in 2008-09. She is in the top 10 all-time in single-season assists, steals and field goals. Franci has been inducted into the HSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Rich Casarotti graduated from Petaluma High in 1985 and quickly made an impact with the Bear Cubs’ baseball program. The switch-hitting second baseman was named first-team All-Camino Norte Conference, first-team All-Northern California and second-team All-American his freshman year after leading the team in batting average, hits, RBI and stolen bases.

His sophomore year, he was again first-team All-Conference and All-Northern California and was named to the first-team All-American squad.

At the end of his SRJC career, Casarotti held the single-season school records for at-bats, hits and triples, while ranking second all-time in runs scored and stolen bases. Casarotti played professionally with the Atlanta Braves organization, making it to AAA of the International League.

“Rich was one of the best players I ever coached,” longtime Bear Cubs coach Ron Myers said.

Longtime SRJC booster Bob Salisbury graduated from Healdsburg High then enrolled at SRJC in 1951.

Salisbury played basketball for the Bear Cubs for two years but then spent years supporting the college’s academic and athletic programs. Salisbury was an original member of the Bear Cub Athletic Trust and chaired the committee for its first two years of existence.

He was instrumental in establishing the Hall of Fame Committee and remained a member from 1996 until 2006. He served on the SRJC Foundation Board and was president in 1999-2000 and helped with the creation of the SRJC AgTrust.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 and at kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter ?@benefield and Instagram ?@kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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