Long Beach Wins Conference Title And Heads To Regionals
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The Long Beach State softball sealed the deal this past weekend with a 2-1 series win over Pacific for sole possession of the 2012 Big West Softball title, and the automatic berth into the postseason NCAA Softball Regional Tournament.
Long Beach will open up postseason play for the NCAA Tournament on Friday, May 18 at the Tempe Arizona Regional, hosted by Arizona State, where the 49ers will face Syracuse in the opener.
The 49ers last faced Syracuse in 2009, when Long Beach picked up a 3-0 victory. The two opponents have met a total three times, where Long Beach holds the 3-0 all-time series record. The 49ers will enter the double elimination regional with a 28-23 record, while Syracuse holds a 40-14 records while ranked No. 25 by ESPN.com /USA Softball.
Long Beach State captured its first Big West title since the 2008 season, with a win over conference foe Pacific 4-2 to end the regular season conference competition. The two teams were tied in the preseason coaches’ poll as frontrunners to take the league championship possession.
The 49ers have captured their second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and the 21st trip in program history. Head coach Sowder will be guiding her fourth squad to regionals this season in her six-year era as head coach at Long Beach.
RECORD SETTING HIGHLANDERS
UC Riverside set a Division I program record for wins this season finishing 25-28 overall and the 8-13 in Big West. The 25 wins set the program’s Division I record for most wins in a season, while the eight victories in league play did the same.
This was the Highlanders third series win of the season in the closeout matchup against Cal Poly. The Highlanders improved this season with one series sweep and three 2-1 series victories over opponents, compared to last year when they were unable to walkaway with a series win in the 2011 season. Riverside finished with two more conference wins this season in comparison to last where they were just 6-15 in league and 13-33 overall.
FRESHMAN PITCHING DUEL
Rising Gaucho freshman, Shelby Wisdom takes the top slot in many categories for her outstanding performance in the circle across the league. Wisdom holds the most wins (24), innings pitched (266.2), games started (37) and game appearances (50). Wisdom led the Gauchos in supreme fashion pitching her first career no-no followed by a shutout against Cal State Northridge. She pitched three complete game, for a total 21 innings last week, allowing only eight hits and one earned run. The starting freshman has made a single-season record of 50 appearances for second place in the Big West all-time single season record book, as well as top-ten honors for her 247 strikeouts in 2012. Wisdom continues with national recognition at No. 32 for her 24 wins on the season and 27th for her 247 strikeouts.
Freshman competitor Justine Vela, leads the league in her own categories while competing for national recognition. Vela leads the league with 272 strikeouts for the season while holding her opponents to a .206 batting average. The freshman’s phenomenal numbers in the circle garner her fifth in all-time Big West single-season records as well as No. 15 in the nation for her 2012 season strikeouts.
The Aggies took on a 52-game schedule finishing 24-28 overall and 14-7 in Big West play. With the 14 wins, the Aggies have posted the most conference wins for the program since finishing 15-6 in 2010 for the Big West title. Davis posted a seven-game turnaround compared to last season’s record, with a 7-14 league completion on the season and 22-28 overall. Last season the Aggies had seven ranked-opponent matchups while unable to walk away with a win. This season the Aggies went up against eight nationally ranked opponents, coming out on top against Stanford, 2-1 at home at the beginning of the season.
UC Santa Barbara claimed a top-two finish this season, the highest seed for the Gauchos since the 2008 season when they placed second to Long Beach State as well. The Gauchos improved with a three-game sweep against Northridge to close out the season, giving up only one run in the three-game series. Last season Santa Barbara collected only 11 wins in conference play, improving to 15-6 this season and 30-28 overall. The Gauchos split 2-2 in the 2012 season against top ranked opponents compared to last season, 0-8, unable to come out on top.
TIGERS TOPPLE BUT TOP BIG WEST RECORDS
Despite losing the ability to win the conference title after a loss on Saturday to conference foe, Long Beach State, the Tigers set record-breaking numbers offensively for Big West recognition. Last season the Tigers set the Big West record for all-time single season highest batting average of .323, while bringing in a .307 this season, but individually a trio of Tigers worked hard offensively. One of the three Tigers lead every offense category this season except for total triples.
Nikki Armagost posted this season’s highest batting average, .433, good enough for seventh place on the all-time single season record batting average list in the Big West. With her 18 doubles on the season, the junior is also ranked tied for seventh in the Big West for all-time single season marks for doubles. She ends her junior year with the highest league batting average, second highest on base percentage (.495), third-highest runs scored (35), second-most hits (71), second in RBI (38), first in doubles (18) and most total bases (104).
Starting junior, Megan Hom went into the season already in the Big West all-time career marks with her .367 batting average in her first two seasons as a Tiger. This year, Hom finished with a .409 average, second-highest to teammate Armagost in the league, while moving her up to fifth overall in the career all-time records with a .388 average. The Irvine, Calif. native made her way to her second all-time Big West career record this season with 45 runs scored. The 45 to go along with her 75 thus far, garners her tied for ninth in all-time Big West record books. Hom also tallied league-high 49 runs scored this season to make the top-ten all-time Big West single season records. Hom finished the season with top offense honors in hits (76), runs scored (49).
Completing the trio is senior, Nicole Matson who went into the season with a RBI Big West record for her 50 runs batted in on the 2011 season. In her final season Matson earned herself a place in all-time career records, as well as single-season marks. With a total 174 runs scored over her four years, Matson moves to seventh in all-time career Big West records, with second place honors in career runs batted in (164), and tied for third in career home runs (34). The starting senior is now ranked sixth (50) and seventh (49) for her RBI performance in a single-season, as well as tied for tenth with 13 home runs in 2012. Matson led the league in slugging percentage (.679), on base percentage (.513), runs batted in (49), home runs (13) and walks (35).
Entering the season with 580 career wins, head coach Brian Kolze has reached the 600 win plateau after picking up his 20th win in 2012 with victories against Cal State Bakersfield on March 27th.
Kolze earned his milestone victory with a doubleheader sweep of the Roadrunners on the road as Pacific won 9-3 in game one before taking a 10-0 (5 inn.) win in game two for their coach.
Kolze is second in all-time in Big West career victories after passing former Cal State Fullerton coach Judi Garman (581) with 614 wins over his career thus far.
In a race to the finish, Long Beach State (first) and Pacific (fourth) were nabbed as winning the title this season by the preseason coaches poll, and up until the last series, that was the case. UC Santa Barbara (second) and UC Davis (third) were underestimated as they dominated with a combination of good pitching and offensive bats for a top-three finish, while Cal State Fullerton (tied sixth) fell in the last series to Davis to end the season tied with predicted last Riverside (tied sixth).