Big West Softball Weekly Release No. 1
The much anticipated show returns this week as Big West softball takes its first swings at the 2017 season. Three teams will open the season at home as the race for the championship begins. Defending champion Cal State Fullerton hosts the Easton Invitational, Long Beach State hosts the Beach Kickoff Tournament and Hawai'i welcomes foes to the island for the Paradise Classic.
AROUND THE BIG WEST
RACKING UP THE HITS
Senior Kristen Clark has earned a place in UCSB history, as she is the first player to finish a season batting .400 or better two times in a career. Her batting average, hits (72) and runs (41) a year ago were all third on the single-season Gaucho lists, while her 231 hits are just 27 shy of tying the UCSB career record.
TITANS TOP PRESEASON COACHES POLL
Cal State Fullerton was the preseason pick among the league’s coaches for the Big West title, claiming the top spot in a tight race.
CSF claimed 57 points and four first place votes on its way to frontrunner status. The Titans are coming off a stellar 45-16 campaign, which included a 17-4 conference mark and their first Big West title since 2006. Long Beach State was only two points behind the Titans with 55 to go along with three first place votes. The Beach finished third in the Big West standings a year ago with a 12-9 record, wrapping up the 2016 campaign with an overall mark of 32-23. CSUN came in third in the preseason poll with 49 points. The club is in the midst of its most successful run in the Big West, having won 75 games over the last two years and a league title in 2015.
SIERRA’S LAST STAND
Senior Sierra Hyland finished her junior season with 194 strikeouts, just missing her third consecutive 200-plus strikeout campaign. Hyland did move into select company as her 690 career punchouts is 10th all-time in conference history. She was also placed on the first team All-West Region team, her program-record third All-Region honor and just the second Mustang to earn first team accolades.
NEW HIGHLANDER IN CHARGE
UC Riverside has a new manager in the dugout as Nikki Palmer has taken the reins of the program. Palmer comes to the Inland Empire from Utah Valley State, having led the Wolverines for the last three seasons. Palmer made history in her first season at the helm of the program, leading UVSU to an NCAA Tournament berth which was the first for the school in any sport in its DI era.
TAYLOR, HYLAND NAMES TO POY WATCHLIST
The top 50 “Watch List” for the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year was announced and two Big West players were included in the list for the prestigious honor.
The senior duo of CSUN’s Taylor Glover and Cal Poly’s Sierra Hyland garnered mention, kickstarting a process that will culiminate in the Player of the Year announcement in late May.
FEAR THE RETURN
Long Beach State junior Lauren Lombardi is back after missing all but one game last season due to injury. Lombardi was a first team All-Big West choice in 2015 after she hit .346 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI in 52 games. Her RBI total was the seventh-best in Big West history and was a single-season record for the Beach.