Softball, Sports, Women's Sports

Softball to face tough slate at home tournament

Home field advantage could turn out to be more of a challenge as the 49ers take their eight game winning streak home to host a competitive Long Beach State Invitational this weekend.

After a tournament sweep, a walk-off grand slam and two consecutive Big West Player of the Week awards, the 49ers come home for the first time this season hoping to show a home crowd the kind of ball they have been playing.

“The fans and everyone’s families will be able to be there,” head coach Kim Sowder said. “I think that’s exciting to have more than anything.”

The 49ers are coming off an undefeated weekend at the San Diego Classic I, but in terms of records and rankings, they will face tougher competition this time around.

Virginia Tech (12-1) will be looking to extend their nine game winning streak against Long Beach State in the opening game on Thursday. The Hokies went into their last tournament ranked at 23 but have not played since Feb. 28.

The confidence the ‘Niners have after going undefeated at last weekend’s tournament will not intimidate No. 11 UCLA (18-2) on Friday, as the Bruins also swept their series at the San Diego Classic I.

Saturday’s game against Charleston Southern (4-11) could provide LBSU with a couple advantages, including extra rest. The 49ers will have played only three games in three days, whereas the game will be the Buccaneers’ second of a doubleheader. The Bucs have also dropped five of their last six games.

Sowder has said one of the most impressive things about the team’s recent success has been the pitching circle, most notably the outings by Christian Carbajal last weekend.

While this week’s Long Beach State Athlete of the Week Erin Jones-Wesley has thrived recently atop of a deep pitching staff, North Dakota State’s (7-10) pitching could be a further test for the ‘Niners on Sunday. Starting pitcher Whitney Johnson threw a no-hitter last weekend against Radford before tossing a one-hitter against No. 23 Georgia in the very next game.

The Beach will conclude their tournament against Southern Alabama (18-2), a team that’s only loss in its last 18 games was against top ranked and defending Women’s College World Series champion Alabama.

The 49ers are playing their best softball right now and are coming home to be surrounded by fans, friends, and families, but Sowder thinks last weekend was less than perfect and that the team needs to make further adjustments.

“We didn’t have our best defensive performances,” Sowder said. “That’s something that probably needs to be the most consistent and probably the easiest part of the game to be the most consistent at.”

With a Thursday game, the practice week will be cut short. The ‘Niners’ next chance to improve upon their hot streak will be 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.
 

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