Big West Champion Long Beach State Off To NCAA Softball Regionals
2014 NCAA Tournament Bracket
Weekly Softball Release No. 15
Long Beach State, the 2014 Big West champion, learned Sunday evening that it is headed to the Los Angeles Regional to begin play next weekend in the NCAA Division I Softball Championship.
The 49ers (38-17) are pitted in a four-team regional with host and national No. 3 seed UCLA, Notre Dame and Southern Utah. Long Beach State opens the tournament Friday, May 16 against the Fighting Irish at 3 p.m. The Bruins and Thunderbirds follow at 6 pm. All games from the Los Angeles Regional will be available on ESPN3.
This is LBSU’s 22nd NCAA Regional appearance, and the fifth in the last eight seasons under the tutelage of head coach Kim Sowder. The 49ers are 25-36 all-time in regionals, and seek to advance to the Super Regional round for the first time in school history. This is the first postseason meeting between LBSU and Notre Dame. The 49ers are 0-7 all-time in regional play against UCLA, and have never played Southern Utah in the postseason.
Long Beach State punched its postseason ticket as the Big West Conference champion, earning the automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. The 49ers won their third conference title under Sowder (8th overall) with a 15-6 record, and held off second place finishers UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly at 14-7. In a winner-take-all battle for the Big West championship, the 49ers overcame a 6-0 deficit to win, 10-9, in nine innings against UCSB on the road.
The 49ers are no stranger to UCLA’s Easton Stadium in the postseason. It is the seventh time in program history that LBSU will make the short trek north to UCLA’s home field. Previous trips to Westwood include 1987, 1989, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
Seven 49er position starters are batting .300 or better, led by junior Shayna Kimbrough’s .394 average. Sophomore Darian Tautalafua and senior Ashlynn Booker have contributed 13 and 11 home runs, respectively.
In the circle, senior Erin Jones-Wesley is 19-9 overall with a 3.08 ERA. She seeks her fourth straight season as a 20-game winner. Junior Amanda Hansen provides the 49ers with a solid one-two pitching punch as she is 19-7 with a 3.20 ERA.
LBSU has won at least one game in each of its last five regional appearances.
LONG BEACH STATE TEAM NOTES
49ers Win Third Title Under Sowder
Long Beach State eighth-year head coach Kim Sowder earned her third Big West title, including the second in the last three years. The 49ers posted a 15-6 record in league play to hold off UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, which gave valiant chase but finished one game behind. Sowder’s first title team in 2008 also finished 15-6, while the 2012 champions were 16-5.
Closing In On 40 Wins
Long Beach State has enjoyed two separate winning streaks of 11 and eight games en route to a 38-17 record. The 38 wins are tied for the second-most in the Kim Sowder era, equalling the output of the 2011 squad. The 49ers need two wins to reach 40 for the first time since 2008, Sowder’s second year as the 49er head coach.
Sowder Earns Conference Win No. 100
Sowder became the 12th coach in Big West history to accumulate 100 conference wins earlier this season. She accomplished the feat in the Big West opener on March 30 when the 49ers blanked UC Davis, 8-0, in six innings. Sowder is an impressive 114-54 (.679) all-time in Big West games. She is ranked No. 11 on the career coaching list.
NCAA Tournament Regulars
The 49ers gained an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as the Big West champion. It is the ninth regional appearance for LBSU in the last 12 years. The 49ers have compiled an all-time record of 25-36 in 21 previous regional appearances. LBSU has never advanced to a Super Regional, but reached the College World Series five times (1986, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993) prior to the Super Regional era.
Offensive Records Shattered
Long Beach State has sported the most prolific offense in school history. The 49ers have broken school records in several categories, including batting average (.310), runs scored (308) and RBI (280). In addition, they are inching toward other records. With 465 hits, LBSU is close to the top mark of 474 in 1992. The 49ers have hit 71 doubles this year, just one shy of tying the all-time mark of 72 that the 2005 squad set. LBSU’s 51 home runs is just off the top mark of 53 set by the 2013 squad.
49er Single-Season Offensive Records
Chasing Additional Records
Jones-Wesley, Hansen Provide One-Two Punch
Long Beach State pitching is in good hands with the duo of senior Erin Jones-Wesley and junior Amanda Hansen. Both hurlers have won 19 games this season, and look to become the first tandem in school history to capture 20 victories in one season. Jones-Wesley, the 49er career record holder with 83 wins, secured her fourth straight all-conference first team award after going 19-9 with a 3.08 ERA during the regular season. She is only the seventh player in Big West history to be named first team all-league four times. Hansen owns a 19-7 record and a 3.20 ERA.
More On Jones-Wesley
Jones-Wesley earned two Big West Pitcher of the Week awards this season to give her a conference record 15 for her career. She surpassed former 49er standout Brooke Turner, who tallied 14 citations from 2008-11.
Hyland Named NFCA Frosh Of Year Finalist
Cal Poly’s Sierra Hyland, the fourth individual in Big West history to garner both the Pitcher of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year awards in the same season, is in the running for another prestigious award. Hyland is one of 10 finalists seeking the inaugural NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy.
She imprinted the Cal Poly record book in several places in her initial campaign, setting new season marks for innings pitched (264.1), appearances (42), starts (34), shutouts (13) and strikeouts (263). The 263 strikeouts placed her ninth all-time in a Big West single-season. Hyland led all freshmen nationally with 26 victories, a total that also ranks second in the Mustang record book.
The top 3 finalists will be announced on Thursday, May 22. The winner will be presented on May 27 during a live ceremony prior to the start of the College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Frosh Shine In 2014
Hyland represented a solid Big West freshman class that also included UC Santa Barbara’s Kristen Clark and Cal State Northridge’s Taylor Glover, both whom made the initial list of 25 finalists for the NFCA Freshman of the Year award.
Clark set school records for batting average (.437) and hits (90), marks that ranked her No. 5 and No. 3 on the Big West single-season lists, respectively. The outfielder led the Big West with 28 multi-hit games, including 13 contests with three or more hits, and she hit safely in 46 of the team’s 54 games.
Glover excelled as the starting center fielder for the Matadors. She set program Division I records for triples (6) and tied the program Division I mark for stolen bases (19). Her 48 RBIs were the most by a Matador since 1994.
The three inclusions on the 25-member list ranks the Big West third among conferences for most representation.
Taukeiaho’s Home Run Binge
Cal State Fullerton sophomore Missy Taukeiaho homered eight times during conference play and finished the season with a Big West-leading 19 home runs. The performance placed the third baseman among elite company in the Big West record book, ranking her second all-time with the 19 bombs. Former Cal State Fullerton slugger Stephenie Little jacked 23 homers in 1999.
Big West Single-Season Home Runs
||Stephenie Little, Cal State Fullerton
||Missy Taukeiaho, Cal State Fullerton
||Kelly Majam, Hawai‘i
Five Schools Hit 30-Win Plateau
The 2014 season ended up being a big success for the Big West as five clubs reached the 30-win mark for the first time since 1997.
Long Beach State (38-17), UC Santa Barbara (34-20), Cal Poly (33-19), Cal State Fullerton (33-21-1) and Cal State Northridge (31-26) exceeded the 30 win total, with the Mustangs making the biggest jump in improvement after finishing the 2013 season with 19 wins.
Best Improvement From 2013 To 2014
|Cal State Northridge
|Cal State Fullerton