The Menlo College Athletics Department announced its 2014 Hall of Fame class, which will enshrine six former standout student-athletes: Bill LeBlanc (baseball & football 1967-68), Mike Bettega (baseball & football 1967-68), Mike Simmons (football 1972-74), Maria Gomez (women's basketball 2001-05), Melissa Hara (softball 2001-04) and Kari Shimomura (volleyball 2002-06).
"On behalf of myself and the rest of the Menlo College Athletic Department, I want to congratulate these six individuals on their outstanding accomplishments and achievements at Menlo College," Menlo Director of Athletics Keith Spataro said. "All six of these individuals represented their school and teams at the highest level both on and off the field. The 2014 class showed a penchant for succeeding at the highest level and are true ambassadors to the Menlo way."
Hara was a four-year standout on the Lady Oaks softball team and helped them to one of its winningest stretches in program history from 2001-04. During that span, Hara led the squad to almost 100 wins and broke nearly every single-season offense record in the process.
Overall, Hara ranks first in four different single-season categories: at-bats (134), hits (57), runs (40) and stolen bases (25).
Additionally, she ranks in the top 10 of seven different career categories: second in career at-bats (440), fourth in batting average (.374), second in hits (169), first in runs (97), first in stolen bases (48), seventh in RBIs (40) and second in games played (132).
"Menlo College is special because the campus is small, the majority of the students are athletes, and the professors want to see their students succeed," said Hara. "I feel so thankful because I met my fiancé and made lifelong friends while studying at Menlo."
Shimomura had a remarkable career, in which she was a four-time All-Cal Pac selection and led the team to back-to-back conference championships in 2004 & 2005. During the 2004 season, Shimomura led the squad to a 20-4 overall record and a perfect 17-0 mark in Cal Pac play.
The Lady Oaks followed with a 13-1 conference mark to claim their second straight title. Menlo finished 68-42 overall and 50-5 in conference play during her storied four-year career.
"We were all really on the same page," Shimomura said. "We always talked about individual and team goals on a weekly basis and all of us were on the same page and worked toward a common goal."
Shimomura ranks in the top two in three different career records: first in service aces with 150, second in assists with 391 and second in digs with 955.
Additionally, the versatile player who played setter, outside hitter, defensive specialist and libero, is also ranked 10th in single-season assists with 391, 10th in total kill attempts with 658 and fifth in service aces with 46.
Gomez came on the scene as a freshman and established herself among the program's elite when she was named the Cal Pac Freshman of the year. She would continue to grow from there, helping the team to a 59-48 overall record and 48-23 mark in Cal Pac play.
It all came to a head when she was named a First Team All-Cal Pac selection following her senior season in 2005.
Gomez finished her career ranked in the top 10 in 14 different career categories and top five in two different single season categories. She tops in program history with 100 games started and is fourth in games played with 107 where she accumulated 828 points (fourth all-time), pulled down 470 rebounds (fourth all-time), doled out 318 assists (second all-time) and posted 189 steals (second all-time).
A sharpshooter, Gomez still ranks first all-time in single season field-goal percentage for her 2003-04 season in which she shot 61 percent from the field.
"My coach and teammates made it a special experience," Gomez said. "They are a group of people that loved basketball and shared the same goals. We were so unselfish with one another. Because of my teammates, that's how I got all of those records."
Simmons spent two seasons as a dual threat for the Oaks football team from 1972-74 under legendary head coach Ray Solari. During his tenure, Simmons split his time as both a starting quarterback and safety, twice netting all-league honors while helping the team to back-to-back 7-3 seasons.
He was named an All-Coast Conference Defensive team selection twice and was honored as the team's most valuable player following the 1973 campaign.
After his career as an Oak, Simmons went on to play defensive back at UC Riverside from 74-75 where he led the team to back-to-back California Collegiate Athletic Association titles and was an Honorable Mention All-CCAA selection in 1975, a year in which he was also selected as the team's most valuable defensive player.
"I consider myself very lucky to have played football on a team with Coach Solari as head coach," noted Simmons. "I am proud and privileged to be able to say that I played for him for five straight years, I believe there is no one else who can say the same thing. I didn't know it while it was happening, but my time under his guidance and leadership on the football field has helped me tremendously in my personal and professional life."
Bettega and LeBlanc were stars at two different sports at Menlo. The duo spent the 1967-68 seasons impressing on both the gridiron and the baseball diamond, serving as battery mates and leading the baseball team to great success.
LeBlanc handled the catching duties of fellow inductee Bettega. LeBlanc's success on the field netted him honorable mention CCJC honors in 1967 and first team CCJC honors in 1968. He was one of just three players unanimously selected to the first team that year.
LeBlanc lettered in both football and baseball during his two-year tenure at Menlo and was named a football team captain by head coach Bo Molenda. Additionally, he was twice named the department's Glen E. Dorst award winner, which honors all-around sportsmanship.
"We were a small school playing in a large conference with all of the junior colleges and I think I was the only athlete with a scholarship. If there was a secret to my success, it was that I had the opportunity and then, of course, as it usually is, it's about hard work." LeBlanc said. "It was the first time that I'd felt academically challenged and it was a great place to get an education. I was thoroughly invested in the school. It was a great time to be at a great place."
Bettega had a storied career as both a baseball and football player at Menlo. Excelling on the mound, Bettega was named a second team CCJC selection in both 1967 & 68 and on two different occasions, took a no-hitter past the sixth inning, including 10 innings in a March 22, 1968 3-2 11-inning win over Hartnell.
He pitched Menlo to five of its six league wins in 1968, a year in which he also was fourth in the conference in total yards gained as the Oaks' quarterback.
"I think it was because I was calling my own plays," joked Bettega, who was named the College's Best Athlete in 1968.
His prowess on the mound led to him becoming the first player in Menlo College baseball history to be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He was picked by the New York Mets in the 36th round in 1968.
Also receiving a scholarship to pitch for UCLA, Bettega would join his catcher, LeBlanc in Southern California where both played a pair of seasons under scholarship for the Bruins.
Bettega would again get drafted, this time in the 1971, and would play a season of baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization before giving up the game for good following that year.
Both LeBlanc and Bettega made a point to thank their teammate, Howard Erenberg, for being the main researcher and driving force behind their induction into the Hall of Fame.
"Howard Erenberg has been the impetus behind all of this. He got a burr in his saddle and said Mike and I should be in the Hall of Fame," LeBlanc said. "He was our teammate and he remains one of our friends through all these years. Clearly Howard would be the one we'd like to thank the most."
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