Long Beach State Takes Top Spot After First Week
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The Big West softball season started out strong for Long Beach State as it took part in its first non-conference tournament hosted by Fresno State. Last week the 49ers went 3-2, winning their last contest against the home team in an eight-inning showdown. Long Beach ran away with the first week of Big West Player accolades and holds the number one slot in conference play.
Returning 2011 All-Big West First Team honoree, Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, Erin Jones-Wesley pitched three full games for the 49ers coming out on top in all three wins for Long Beach last week. The sophomore tied her career-high 11 strikeouts against Sacramento State in the tournament opener. In the 49ers’ final matchup Jones-Wesley pitched eight solid innings, giving up one run on a solo home run.
Freshman starter, Leila Tupua-Tautalatasi went 7-for-19 with one home run and one triple, holding the second-highest slugging percentage (.632) and tying for first in runs (4), after the first week of play. In a tied 1-1 ballgame to finish out the season’s first tournament, the 49ers went into extra inning, hiting first against the Bulldogs. Junior Nalani St. Germain hit the game winning three-run homer to take the 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth, where Jones-Wesley shut it down giving up only one hit and no runs for the final win.
UNABLE TO FINISH
In the total 38 contest last week for Big West teams, 13 of those games were shutdown early due to mercy rule. While eight of those early losses came from Top-25 ranked opponents, last season only one mercy-rule loss was to an unranked opponent compared to five this season. In the starting weekend of the 2011 season the Big West was 20-16, just two fewer games played then this season’s starting weekend where the conference went 9-29. Two of the mercy-rule games fell in Big West favor last year, compared to none this season.
Cal State Northridge recorded 4-of-5 games coming to an early end this opening weekend, followed by Cal Poly 3-of-5 and UCSB with 3-of-6. Long Beach State, Pacific and Cal State Fullerton all recorded one loss due to the mercy-run rule, for a total of 13 games. UC Davis and UC Riverside kept its competition close all weekend as UC Davis was 1-4 for the start, losing each game by fewer then five runs. UC Riverside finished out 1-4 as well losing by no more than five in their five game appearances.
FULLERTON CRACKS THE BATS
Cal State Fullerton led the Big West in a variety of offensive catagories last week, bringing in the highest batting average (.292), the most runs scored (24), and highest on-base percentage (.378). The Titans lead the conference with 40 hits last week, consisting of five doubles, one triple and one home run. Elizabeth Crawford and Emily Vizcarra both went 6-for-15 in their appearances at the plate, tying for first in the conference for highest batting average (.400) alongside Pacific’s Nikki Armagost. Crawford and Vizcarra also brought in four runs each last week in a three-way tie for runs scored in the conference with Long Beach State’s Leila Tupua-Tautalatasi.
BIG WEST DROPS TO THE BEST
The Big West went 0-11 against ranked opponents last week, with 8-of-11 games ending early due to the mercy rule. Pacific held the lead going into the seventh inning against Kentucky, 2-0, with returning pitcher and Top-25 “Watch List” candidate Nikki Aramagost in the circle for the Tigers. In the top of the seventh Aramagost gave up her only hits, a single and two home runs to put Kentucky on top 3-2. The Tigers could not push in a run in the bottom of the frame who suffered their first loss of the season. Ranked 24th by ESPN.com/USA Softball, Kentucky opened the year with a 1-3 mark, the only win coming against the Tigers in the last inning.
Big West conference teams with go up against eight more ranked teams this next week and will look to get the first win for the conference. UC Davis will take on three of those teams out of their six-game schedule this weekend. This marks the first time the Aggies will face ranked teams this season. The Big West Conference teams have 50 competitions against Top-25 teams this season (based on preseason poll) compared to the 61 contests last Spring. Against ranked opponents only three teams were able to come away with a win in 2011, Pacific (3-8), Long Beach State (3-7) and Cal State Fullerton (1-6).
BIG WEST BEING “WATCHED”
The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) announced February 1st that Pacific junior pitcher/utility Nikki Armagost has been selected to the Top 50 “Watch List” for the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
Now in its 11th year, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, given by the National Governing Body for softball in the United States, recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.
As a sophomore, Armagost was named the 2011 Big West Player of the Year as well as an All-Big West First Team honoree and a Second Team All-Region award winner. Armagost was a vital two-way player in helping Pacific capture the 2011 Big West championship. She ended the season posting a .367 average with 65 hits, and went 19-11 overall in the circle with a 2.66 ERA.
DOMINATING THE CIRCLE
Long Beach State continued its pitching dominance last season to defend Big West history and shows no stopping at the start of the 2012 season. Freshman pitcher Erin Jones-Wesley took home both 2011 Freshman Pitcher of the Year and 2011 Pitcher of the Year accolades. Erin is only the second pitcher in Big West history to achieve both awards in the same season, the first by fellow 49er Brooke Turner in 2008. The club won three consecutive Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year awards (Bridgette Pagano, Brooke Turner, Taylor Petty) from 2007-09 and one other Big West Pitcher of the Year honor (Turner, 2008). Jones-Wesley also snatched a spot on the All-Big West First Team.
Jones-Wesley leads the conference having pitched 22 innings in her first week of conference play, while striking out 24 batters in her three full-game appearances for a 1.64 ERA.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Pacific leads the pack and looks to continue to climb the charts this season in three categories of ranked all-time Big West records. As a club, the Tigers took the number one spot in all-time single season batting average (.323), topping the previous record of .311 set by Hawaii in 1996. Two Tigers will be back in the lineup this season to continue to post record-breaking numbers. Nicole Matson made her way to the sixth spot in the all-time records with 50 RBI’s in a single season, passing up Fresno State’s Gina LoPiccolo (49) in 1990. Teammate Megan Hom made the top-10 in Big West Individual Career Records with a batting average of .367, good enough for the ninth spot to finish out her sophomore year with the Tigers.
ESPNU & ESPN3
In collaboration with ESPN and the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the Big West Conference launched a ten-game distribution package on ESPN3 this past Fall. The first appearance for Big West women’s softball will be the double-header at Cal State Fullerton against Long Beach State for conference play on May 5 at 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm on ESPNU. The second double-header televised will be a LBSU at Pacific battle on May 11, slated for 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm on ESPN3.
This year’s package included a volleyball match, two baseball, two men’s basketball, two women’s basketball, one MPSF men’s volleyball and two softball games. The addition of games on ESPN3 extends ESPN’s current five-year deal with the Big West, which continues through the 2012-13 season.
ESPN3 is currently available in more than 70 million households through computers, tablets and smart phones and in 25 million households via Xbox gaming consoles.
BACK FOR MORE
Three-year All-Big West First-Team recipient Alex Holmes will return to the Aggies’ dugout this season but in a different capacity. Holmes will be returning as a student-assistant coach under head coach Karen Yoder. While on the Davis’ lineup Holmes made club and conference rankings including national recognition from NCAA Division I statistics with eight triples in 2011.