Softball, Sports, Women's Sports

Long Beach State softball will look to best Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly for Big West title

Two games separated the top four teams in last year’s Big West conference title race. The Long Beach State softball team is expecting the upcoming season to produce a similar finish.

The preseason coaches’ poll released last week picked Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly to finish second and third, respectively, in the Big West just behind LBSU. The same poll picked the 49ers to win it all again.

“The teams [in the conference] are really good,” junior infielder Darian Tautalafua said. “Cal Poly still has their pitcher [sophomore right-hander Sierra Hyland], she was a freshman last year and she was really good. Fullerton is always a good competitor for us, same for Hawaii.”

With reigning Big West Player of the Year Missy Taukeihano, Fullerton will be one the toughest conference opponent for The Beach after CSUF earned three first-place votes in the preseason poll.

“[Fullerton’s] hitting line-up is crazy,” Tautalafua said. “They still have Missy Taukeiaho.”

Taukeiaho, a junior infielder, has piled up the accolades in her short collegiate career. The 2015 USA Collegiate Player of the Year watch list named Taukeiaho as a possible candidate for the award last week. Taukeiaho was the only player from the Big West to be named on the list.

“[Taukeiaho is] very good, very good player,” senior infielder Ashley Holmes said. “I’d be surprised if she’s not the player of the year, personally.”

Fullerton also earned two votes in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll that determines the top 25 teams in the country; however, the Titans didn’t break into the top 25.

“[Fullerton] are always the rival,” Holmes said. “Always the ones we want to beat.”

The 49ers were 1-2 against the Titans last year. That series included an 8-0 opening game loss that snapped an 11-game win streak by the 49ers. Long Beach State was even worse against Cal Poly, dropping all three games against the Mustangs at home.

Despite sweeping the 49ers, the Mustangs finished a game behind Long Beach State for the Big West title last year. Cal Poly is the other big threat to the 49ers’ goal of becoming champions again. The Mustangs will have the 2014 Freshman Pitcher of the Year Sierra Hyland returning for her sophomore season.

“I know that [Hyland] was placed fifth in the nation for pitching,” sophomore infielder Lauren Lombardi said. “I know that that’ll be tough, but we have the bats.”

The Mustangs lost their chance at the Big West title after dropping a thrilling, extra-innings match-up against the 49ers in the final game of the season.

The 49ers have a tough conference schedule full of big matchups with tremendous title implications. Yet, the series they are looking forward to the most isn’t against a traditional rival, or even a team that beat them last year:

“Hawaii,” Holmes said. “Because we get to go to Hawaii.”



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