Softball, Sports

LBSU opens season at Fresno State Tournament

The Long Beach State softball team opens its season with a five-game tournament in Fresno this weekend.

Expectations are high for the 49ers, who return eight starters from a squad that earned an NCAA tournament berth last season. The team also finished tied for first with Pacific in the preseason Big West poll.

“We’re ready to play,” sixth-year Head Coach Kim Sowder said. “We’ve prepared the best we can and we’re ready to find out where we’re at.”

Sowder’s team will be playing five games in three days — facing the likes of Sacramento State, Toledo, North Dakota State and host Fresno State.

“We played extra innings with Sac. [Sacramento] State in the fall, so that will be a tough matchup,” Sowder said. “But every team is pretty good now, we’re just going to focus on performing the best we can.”

Among the returning starters are 2011 First Team All-Big West outfielder Hannah De Gaetano and Second-Team All-Big West selections Nalani St. Germain at second base and Sarah Carrasco, a designated player.

Also returning will be 2011 Big West Pitcher of the Year and Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year Erin Jones-Wesley. Jones-Wesley’s presence alone should worry LBSU opponents, but Taylor Petty, an honorable mention on the 2011 All-Big West team, will be returning for her senior year, and this time she will be completely healthy — Petty pitched with a torn labrum for most of 2011, but had offseason surgery and is gearing up for a big year.

“Taylor Petty has gained a lot of strength and is as strong as ever,” Sowder said. “It’s nice to see her at 100 percent.”

Rounding out the lineup for the 49ers will be returning outfielders Megan Denio and Brianna Stephan. At catcher, junior Dana Garcia will share time with sophomore Karli Sandoval. St. Germain will be joined in the infield by senior shortstop Alisha Rosen and newcomers Ashlynn Booker and Shayna Kimbrough at first and third, respectively.

The ‘Niners pitching staff is as deep as it is star-studded. In addition to Jones-Wesley and Petty, they will have freshman Amanda Hansen and sophomore transfer Christian Carbajal throwing from the circle.

Hansen shined during the fall season and Carbajal earned California First-Team All-State honors out of Antelope Valley College last year. They are expected to take up relief roles in order to keep Jones-Wesley and Petty fresh.

The 49ers are looking to build off of last season’s success and hope to not only win a Big West title, but also advance past regional play in the NCAA tournament.

It all starts today in Fresno, where they will open against Sacramento State and close out a doubleheader with a night game against Toledo.

Tomorrow will present a morning rematch with Toledo and another night game, this time against North Dakota State. The ‘Niners will finish against tournament host Fresno State in what should be the marquee matchup of the weekend.

LBSU’s home opener will be on Feb. 29 against Maine. Big West play will begin on March 31 with a series at Santa Barbara. 

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