Big West Softball Set For Opening Act This Week
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The first full week of February will have a familiar ping to it as the eight Big West softball teams hit the diamond for their season openers. This week will see clubs hit locales from the shores of Hawai'i to the desert of Arizona for tournament play, but Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara will host tournaments at their home stadiums.
Cal State Fullerton is already in a class of its own in Big West history with eight league titles, 20 NCAA appearances and a national title as a member of the conference, but a milestone the Titans are set to hit this season may shine above them all. With six wins this year, CSF will be the first team in league history to get to 1,000 victories. The Titans are 74 wins ahead of second place Long Beach State in conference lore.
TWO BIG WEST PLAYERS NAMED TO ASA PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCHLIST
The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America has selected its initial watch list for the 10th annual ASA USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award and two Big West players have made the exclusive preseason list.
Cal Poly's Anna Cahn and UC Davis' Alex Holmes are among the 50 names on the preseason list, the first leg of the process for what is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s softball. The ASA will announce the 25 finalists on April 13. A player does not have to appear on the initial watch list to be considered as a top 25 finalist. However, once the top 25 finalists are named the winner of the award will come from that list. Freshman qualify for the top 25 list once they have competed at the collegiate level.
BE THE BEST? PLAY THE BEST
The Big West Conference has never shied away from playing the premier teams in the country and 2011 is no different. Gracing Big West team schedules this season are such clubs as defending national champion UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, California, Stanford, Brigham Young and Hawai’i . That’s just a small sample of the ranked teams that will be on the opposite side of league clubs this season.
IS THERE ANYTHING LEFT TO DO?
Last season, Cal Poly’s Anna Cahn had a superb campaign that ended with a piece of Big West history. She became just the second player in league annals to win the Player of the Year award after previously being named the Pitcher of the Year. Long Beach State legend Meredith Cervenka is the only other player to accomplish this feat.
FLOWERS TAKES OVER AT CSUN
Cal State Northridge has a new coach at the helm as former Long Beach State assistant Tairia Flowers assumes control of the program. Flowers is a former Olympic goal medal winner (2004) and was a four-year letterwinner in her playing career at UCLA. She will look to lead the Matadors to their third straight winning season, a feat the program has not accomplished since a four-year run of winning seasons from 2001-04. The club will have its work cut out for it before conference play as all but five of its games are on thr road before the month of April.
PITCHING IS THEIR THING
Long Beach State has become synonymous with pitching stars in Big West history. The club won three consecutive Freshman Pitcher of the Year awards (Bridgette Pagano, Brooke Turner, Taylor Petty) from 2007-09 and owns a Big West Pitcher of the Year honor as well (Turner). But last season, the 49ers didn’t have a first team All-Big West pitcher for the first time since 2002.
BACK AND LOOKING FOR MORE
UC Davis had their best season as a member of the Big West in 2010. Aside from the league championship, the Aggies recorded 26 wins after totaling 46 in its previous two seasons. UCD’s 15 conference wins also equaled the amount the club had posted in the previous two seasons combined. The Aggies have seven position starters and its top starting pitcher back in the fold. The club will also have just two seniors on its roster in 2011.
UCSB LOOKS FOR SOME HISTORY
With two conference wins this season, the Gauchos will become just the fifth program in Big West history to reach the 250-win plateau in conference contests. Getting to eight Big West wins hasn’t been an issue for UCSB of late as the program has won at least that many contests in seven of the previous nine seasons.
CATCH US IF YOU CAN!
UC Riverside was a prolific base stealing team last year, recording 53 steals in 57 attempts. They became the first team in league history with 50+ stolen bases while not being caught at least 10 times. Leading the charge was Alexis Shore, who stole 22 bags in 24 attempts, while Kameryn Hebenton was a perfect 16-for-16 in the department. Those 38 steals alone would've tied for fifth on the league leaderboard last year.
LET'S CLOSE 'EM OUT AND GO HOME
The Tigers’ 2011 season could be predicated on how well the club can close out opponents. Last season, Pacific outscored its opponents in the first three innings 101-83, but was outscored by a 66-41 margin in the sixth inning and later.
ANOTHER SEASON, ANOTHER COACHING MILESTONE FOR GROMACKI
Cal State Fullerton head coach Michelle Gromacki is just the fourth coach in league history to win 350+ overall games and 150+conference outings during Big West membership. This season, Gromacki might not only lead the Titans to its 1,000th win as a member of the conference, but the 12th-year coach is also just 19 wins from 400 for her career.