Former Peninsula prep softball standouts Haley Woods and Tori Nyberg were on opposite sides of the West Coast’s fiercest college rivalry.
On Tuesday, Woods, who played for California, and Nyberg, who played at Stanford, buried the hatchet for good as they joined a select group.
Woods and Nyberg were among 10 prominent athletic figures inducted into the Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame at San Mateo County Events Center.
Since its 1989 inception, more than 200 athletes and coaches and other sports dignitaries have been inducted into the PSHF, formerly the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame. The PSHF was renamed to include Palo Alto.
Nyberg, considered one of the best pitchers in Peninsula history, was a three-time all-state selection at Carlmont who went on to make her mark at Stanford, leading the Cardinal to its first College World Series appearance in 2001.
She ranks among Stanford’s all-time top five in nearly all meaningful statistical categories, including victories (53), strikeouts (440), shutouts (14) shutouts and ERA (1.74).
“We always had great respect for Cal,” Nyberg said. “We’d go to the Big Game (football game) and we’d hang out with the Cal softball team, but when we played each other it was definitely a tough competition,” she said. “They were always a tough team.”
And the competition just made the rivalry that much more heated, she said.
“That’s part of our job, right?” she said. “We’re supposed to hate them a little bit.”
Nyberg was a Stanford senior and Woods a Cal freshman when they faced each other in 2003, and in high school before that when Woods was a Sacred Heart Prep freshman.
“(Nyberg) was a phenomenal pitcher,” Woods said. “It was always, ‘You better bring your A-game against Tori,’ because she was one of the best pitchers.”
Truth be told, Woods always brought her A-game.
Woods is arguably “the greatest offensive force ever introduced in San Mateo County,” longtime San Mateo County Times columnist and event emcee, John Horgan said in her introduction. Woods was a career .552 hitter in high school in three years at SHP and one year at Burlingame, from which she graduated in 2002.
The slugging catcher/first baseman graduated Cal with career records for RBIs (191) and total bases (413).
The other inductees were Jim Whitney (Burlingame High/USF football), Mike Solari (El Camino High football, current San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach), Jim Soden (Terra Nova High girls and boys basketball coach), Frank Mangiola (Skyline and Cañada soccer coach), Bill Neukom (San Mateo High, current San Francisco Giants managing general partner), Ed Montague (Westmoor High, veteran MLB umpire), Spencer Folau (Sequoia High, NFL offensive lineman) and Jim Loscutoff (Palo Alto High, NBA player).
Whitney, a plucky running back at Burlingame, went on to play on USF’s legendary unbeaten 1951 football team that was the subject of Kristine Setting Clark’s critically acclaimed book, “Undefeated, Untied, and Uninvited.” Despite fielding one of the NCAA’s best team’s that year, the Dons didn’t receive a bowl invitation because two of its players were African-American. The Dons players unanimously rejected a Sugar Bowl invitation stipulating that the African-American players stay home.
“We all looked at each other and said, ‘No way,’” Whitney recalled at Tuesday’s induction ceremony.
“(Our) team really was robbed,” he said.
Solari went on to play at College of San Mateo and San Diego State. He coached collegiate ball at Kansas, Pittsburgh, Boise State, Cincinnati and Alabama, and in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys and the 49ers.
Soden took over the Terra Nova program in1975 at a time when the girls game was played before little fanfare. He guided the Tigers to a 1979 Central Coast Section title, a 1988 title appearance and nine straight CCS semifinal appearances, compiling a 354-107 in 17 seasons.
He also coached the boys team from 1995 to 2001, going 90-62 and guiding the Tigers to their first Peninsula Athletic League title in 1997.
Mangiola spent most of his 35-year coaching career on the Peninsula at Skyline (1980-90) and Cañada (1990-2005), taking four teams to the state finals (two from Skyline, one from Cañada, and one from Ohlone).
Neukom, the Giants chief executive, helped bring the first World Series title to San Francisco in 2010.
Montague umpired 4,369 games during a 34-year career in the major leagues. He was considered one of the game’s most respected umps. He umpired 15 playoff series, six World Series and four All-Star games.
Folau and Loscutoff both live on the East Coast and didn’t attend Tuesday’s ceremony.
Folau’s eight-year NFL career included a Super Bowl championship as a member of the Baltimore Ravens (2000-01). He also played for the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints after playing college ball at Idaho.
Loscutoff played for the Boston Celtics during the Bill Russell era dynasty, and was a member of seven NBA championship teams during a period in which Boston won 11 titles from 1957-69.
“We feel that the superstar athletes of (the Peninsula) should be remembered and recognized,” event organizer Anne LeClair said.
“These are tremendous role models so it’s great for kids to read about them and it gives them something to aspire to.”
“It’s a really great honor,” Nyberg said of the induction.
“It’s the culmination of what I did here on the Peninsula, athletically, and my friends and family came out here to support me,” Woods said. “It’s really unbelievable.”
And a certain color pattern will make coexisting in sports immortality a little bit easier, Woods said.
“We have some blue on the plaques, so I’ve got one up on her,” Woods said jokingly. “I think it’s actually going to be alright.”