North Davis Elementary School teacher Paulene Bitners will live long in our memories.
And fittingly, a Little League game played between her son Nolan’s Dodgers and the Giants earlier this week will live on in local baseball lore.
Bitners died Sunday of breast cancer. The popular and influential kindergarten and third-grade teacher was a fixture at the Davis Little League complex — her love of baseball vivid in my mind.
On Tuesday, baseball loved her back.
Services for Paulene were conducted Wednesday, the same day Nolan’s team was to meet the Giants.
Coaches Dave Hedin (Giants) and Jeremy Brooks (Dodgers) agreed to play the game a day early — and dedicate it to one-time scorekeeper and No. 1 fan Paulene Bitners.
The pre-game moment of silence for Nolan’s mom was poignant, sad …
How could we be without Paulene, just 47 years old? It isn’t fair.
Paulene’s husband Andrew helped coach the Dodgers and Gloria Purnell (mom of Nolan’s teammate Zach) was among Bitners’ caregivers.
Profoundly feeling the loss on both teams — at least six of her former students took the field that night — the game looked like a runaway for the Giants, who led 14-3 after four innings.
But her beloved Dodgers, apparently cheered on by Paulene from the Highest of Bleachers, strung 12 straight runs together and won, 15-14.
It mattered not to anyone who won. It was in the memory and the spirit in which the game was played.
Now comes word that there will be a fundraiser for the Bitner Family.
Uncle Vito’s Pizza and Paesanos will donate 20 percent of the proceeds from both restaurants on Tuesday night to the Bitners family in Paulene’s name.
Separate from the dine-out tribute, folks can donate to the family through www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/4804/paulene-bitners-family-fund.
Aggie basketball update: With fingers crossed, the UC Davis basketball programs will recover from injuries suffered before and during the recent season.
On the women’s side, center Alyson Doherty, emerging as one of the Big West’s top post players, is recovering from surgery to repair a knee injury suffered in the conference tournament’s opener last month. Doherty became a difference-maker during her brilliant sophomore year.
School officials say it’s too early to tell what condition Doherty will be in when two-time defending national champion Connecticut comes to call to open the 2014-15 season at The Pavilion in November.
Meanwhile, All-BWC wing Sydnee Fipps, who went down with ankle and knee injuries in the season finale against UC Irvine, is OK.
Fipps came back into that game after her first-half fall, but reported “looseness” in her leg joints after the contest.
After being checked out, it was reported that Fipps’ injuries were less severe than first thought. Fipps had knee surgery during her prep days at Yosemite High (Mariposa).
Between Fipps and Lauren Beyers, Doherty is propped up by teammates who know rehab. Remember, Beyers suffered a horrific leg injury in her freshman season, taking two full years to recover before returning to the court this winter. Beyers’ layup with six seconds left against UCI almost gave the Aggies the victory. But a late Anteater basket tied things before UCD’s season ended in overtime in the conference tournament.
Beyers was clearly the feel-good story of this season — a role we hope is reserved for Doherty next fall.
For the men, Aggie officials report frontline players J.T. Adenrele and Josh Ritchart are “ahead of schedule” in their recoveries from season-ending injuries.
Adenrele went out before the first game with a knee injury in a non-contact drill in August.
Ritchart’s lower-leg injury ended his season after nine games. Both were granted medical redshirt status.
Combined, the injuries substantially altered UCD’s lineup and the Aggie men had to repeatedly shift gears in a disappointing season. Both should be ready to roll come opening tip-off 2014.
While I Have You Here: As a sports community, Davis is as much a swim town as it soccer, baseball or basketball or football.
Don’t believe me? Look around: Aquadarts, Davis Water Polo Club, 50 Davis High section titles in water sports, strong UC Davis women’s swim and both-gender water polo programs. Masters swim programs, athlete facilities like SwimAmerica and recreational programs like Summerdarts are there, too.
This summer, first-year Aggie men’s water polo coach Daniel Leyson throws his hat in the water with a three-day water polo camp, Aug. 1-3. With three training sessions between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. at Schaal Aquatics Center, the camp targets high school-age boys.
Former USC and Olympic team assistant Leyson, UCD assistant coach Kevin Peat and members of the Aggie squad will be instructors.
For more information, contact Peat at [email protected]
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.