UPDATE: The Softball team took place in the Libby Matson Tournament on Feb 15 and 16 in Stockton, California. The team lost the first three games of the tournament before finally picking up their first win of the season on Saturday afternoon against the Nevada University Wolfpack. The team currently sits with a record of 1-8 and is currently preparing for the Amy S.Harrison Classic in Riverside, California on March 6.
CSU Bakersfield softball started up their 2020 season on Feb. 6 as they took part in the Stacey Winsburg Memorial Tournament in Los Angeles and San Diego, California.
The Roadrunners faced plenty of tough competition in the tournament, including two games against last season’s NCAA National Champion UCLA Bruins. Head coach Crissy Buck-Ziegler said that the team was not intimidated at all by last year’s national champions, and that they came into the weekend with plenty of excitement for the opportunity to set themselves against some of the best teams in California. “I think we had a lot of really good energy and we were really ready to play,” Ziegler said.
This year’s team is led by a group of strong veterans, including senior shortstop Cydney Curran and senior catcher Kara Wiseman, and they have plenty of confidence in their ability to compete against anyone in the country.
“I think our biggest strength this year is that anyone in our line-up can hit,” Curran said about this year’s team. “There’s no automatic outs in our line-up and we have a lot of speed this year, so we can do whatever we want [on the bases].”
However, even going into the tournament with nothing but confidence in their play, CSUB got off to a very rough start in their first two games of the weekend. In their games against UCLA and San Diego University, the Roadrunners were outscored 20-0 as problems with defensive communication and difficulty capitalizing on run-scoring opportunities plagued CSUB.
From a pitching and defensive standpoint, CSUB got hit early and often in their first two games against UCLA and San Diego University. Junior pitcher Daryn Hitzel and freshman pitcher Talia Neilson learned very quickly that playing the best comes with the challenge of playing almost perfectly in order to give your team an opportunity to win.
“When you are playing a team like UCLA you cannot miss, you can’t miss a spot even by 1 inch,” Zeigler said. “So, it exposes that really early on as pitchers, and especially Talia Neilson who is young. She learned a lot over the weekend, and I’m loving how she is bouncing back and is ready to compete this weekend.”
The offensive side of the game was filled with woes as well, as the Roadrunners were over-aggressive at the plate. Problems with swinging at pitches outside the zone caused the ‘Runners to struggle to get anything going. But these problems also caused the team to reevaluate their approach to the weekend and formulate a plan to produce more on offense.
“We were able to really collect ourselves afterwards and think about how we are a team that needs a plan and we need to stick to that plan,” Zeigler said.
The plan was to simplify the game for the players in their own heads. Slow the game down and take each at-bat one step at a time.
CSUB put that plan into action on day two of the tournament when they were able to break into the run column against Pittsburg University thanks to a single by freshman utility player Sam Fontaine.
One player who seemed to thrive from CSUB’s new plan at the plate was junior infielder Samantha Martinez, who was able to slug out two two-run home runs on the final day of the tournament.
“The difference was really just getting to see ball,” Martinez said. “Sticking to a simple plan rather than thinking about the big outcome. Just keep it simple.”
Martinez’s first homerun of the day brought CSUB within one run of the former national champion UCLA, at 5-4, in the fifth inning. The Roadrunners battled the Bruins in their rematch on Saturday afternoon, but UCLA was still able to run away with the win with a final of 8-4.
Despite losing every game in the tournament, Ziegler was impressed by the team’s performance in their first weekend of action this season, and said the tournament has exposed the team to what they need to be working on.
“I think we are doing all the right things. We are practicing and preparing the right way, and it’s just all now about trusting what we are doing and continuing to do it consistently,” Ziegler continued. “I really like how we competed. The only downside was that Cal Poly game at the end. We kind of let up, but for the most part overall, it was a fair showing.”
The team is currently focused on improving their run production and on their ability to capitalize with runners in scoring position. Curran says that the team is getting the hits necessary, but they are working on being able get them at the right time and take advantage of the opportunities when they arise.
The Roadrunners have two tournaments left before their first regular season series against UC Davis on March 14.