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O’Keefe can’t choose so she plays both basketball and softball

It would be unfair to call Mallory O’Keefe the sparkplug of both the Petaluma High School basketball and softball teams. At times she was the entire engine.

St 5-feet (maybe) O’Keefe was the best athlete (maybe) at Petaluma High during the just concluded school year and was most valuable (no maybes about it) player in both basketball and softball.

“She is something really special,” said basketball coach Sophie Bihn. “She was the person I could always rely on. Anything I asked of her she would do it.”

“She could play anything,” said baseball coach Kurt Jastrow. “She is a special athlete and a special person.”

Her basketball statistics are sketchy, but they do show that she led the team in scoring, averaging 11. 7 points per game, the only player on the team to average in double digits. Although the numbers are not available, she also easily led the team in 3-pointers and assists.

But her most valuable contribution to Trojan basketball was just her presence on the court.

“She learned to understand the game like I understand the game,” said Bihn “I would love her to come back and help me coach some day.”

Bihn coached O’Keefe for two seasons at Petaluma Junior High School. Later, when the player was a sophomore, she became part of the first team Bihn coached for the high school.

The two shared a love and a knowledge of the game. “I feel very fortunate to have had a special relationship with Mallory, that coaches seldom have with a player,” Bihn said.

Jastrow said O”Keefe can do it all on the softball field. “She can hit, she can hit with power and she can play any position,” he said. Mostly an infielder, she can play anywhere. “We tried her in the outfield and she ran down everything,” the coach said. “She could also pitch if we needed her.”

At the plate, O’Keefe batted .400 with 30 hits, 19 runs scored and 16 RBIs from the leadoff spot. She had 10 doubles, four triples and two home runs.

But the numbers on the court and on the diamond don’t come close to telling the story of Mallory 0’Keefe. They don’t tell of her team leadership, her competitive spirit, her infectious enthusiasm for the sports she loves, her love for her teammates and friends or her heartache over the loss of her father and coach during her freshman year.

Her first varsity softball season was just really getting going, and she was already starting in the infield behind her junior sister, Mandy, the team’s best pitcher, when her father, Sean, died after a courageous battle with cancer.

Sean O’Keefe was a long-time and much beloved youth softball coach, who started Mallory, her two older sisters and hundreds of other young athletes on their softball careers.

Mallory said the support given her by her teammates and coaches helped through the tough days that followed the loss of her father.

“Sports helped me a lot,” she said. “Having the whole team around me,” was really important. “The coaches and all the people around the team really helped.”

The loss was a hurt to the whole family, but the father’s legacy was the love of sport that he and wife, Carol, passed along to all three of their daughters.

The oldest, Emily, was an outstanding pitcher for Petaluma championship teams. She is now studying nursing at Dominican College. Mandy was also a standout pitcher for the Trojans who attended Santa Rosa Junior College and has now entered work world.

The youngest daughter said she learned from her sisters, but admitted that they brought out her competitive nature. “I was always trying to get better than them,” she said.

Then there was COVID, that hung like San Francisco fog for two years, forcing teams off the softball diamond and into empty gyms.

Through it all, O’Keefe, maintained her enthusiasm and the personality that make her who she is.

“It isn’t just basketball,” said Bihn. “It is everything else that comes with it. To see her develop into the person she has become is so exciting.”

Even now that high school is over, O’Keefe isn’t sure whether she is a basketball or a softball player.

“I don’t really have a favorite,” she said. “I’m up and down between the two.”

So, she is doing the only sensible thing – she is playing both.

This summer she is working out with the Santa Rosa Junior College basketball team while playing softball with the Sonoma Stack softball team out of the town of Sonoma. She hopes to play both sporfts at SRJC.

Now 18, she is looking forward to the next step, but, despite COVID and the sadness of losing someone very close to her, O’Keefe leaves Petaluma High School with friends who will be teammates for life and a love for two sports that she hopes will continue to be a part of her life for the foreseeable future.

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