Softball: Matadors will rely on core of newcomers

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Softball: Matadors will rely on core of newcomers

Emmanuel Reid

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With the departure of productive senior class, the Matadors will rely on new faces as nine freshman and two transfers will be expected to contribute for CSUN right away. Photo Credit: Emmanuel Reid / Daily Sundial

 

Training camp has come and gone, and after a 25-31 record in 2013 the Matadors softball team has something to prove. Anticipation is running high as tomorrow marks day one of the 2014 season.

Fourth-year head coach Tairia Flowers notes this year’s team is more athletic than previous seasons, with a wealth of talent in all positions. With a youthful roster boasting nine freshmen, Coach Flowers is pleased to see senior athletes ascend into leadership positions within the team.

“Having nine freshmen and two transfers, that’s a big group to have to lead and they’ve done a great job. The followers have done a great job of staying on path with them.”  Flowers said. “We’re very young so that can be good and bad but right now its definitely a positive, they know that we’ve been successful in the fall and they want to carry that into season.”

In Flowers’ four seasons at the helm, the team has seen improvement in play.  Last season the Matadors had the sixth best turnaround in NCAA Division I softball, jumping from 10 wins in the 2012 season to 25 wins last year.  Although most of the senior leadership which led the charge last season have left, Flowers is confident the freshmen will enjoy instant chemistry and lead the team to victories.

Flowers believes the opening game against the San Jose State Spartans will be a good measuring stick for the new-look Matadors.

“Seeing as they went to the post-season it will be a nice test for us right out of the gates.” Flowers said “Every year so far we’ve been having more wins… more stolen bases, more doubles and ultimately more wins.”

Northridge was ranked a lowly seventh of eight teams in the Big West Preseason Coaches Poll. Topping the list are the usual suspects, the defending champion Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine and the Long Beach State 49ers at one and two, respectively. Opposing coaches may doubt the Matadors who are only one season removed from a 10-42 year but CSUN players and coaches have expressed excitement at competing in the Big West.

The Matadors will begin their season at Arizona State University where they will compete in the Kajikawa Classic tournament. The tournament will span three days with five games scheduled, which means fatigue may be an obstacle for the team early on. Coach Flowers will have ample time to observe the in-game play of her new players on the road trip.

Many of the players are “pumped and ready to go,” according to senior utility player Leann Lopez. Lopez will play a larger role in the offense after 2013 season where she saw limited action with only 61 at-bats but finished third on the team with five stolen bases and fifth with fourteen runs scored.

“We have a lot of new players, so we’re looking to build new relationships,” Lopez said.  Despite the inexperience, Lopez stressed the team is “ready to go.”

Senior pitcher Jennifer Tyler will be one of the new leaders on the Matadors as she helps replace a pitching corps that lost three of its top four starters last season.  Although she struggled last season with a 6.15 ERA in seven appearances last season, she will be counted on to contribute in an increased role.

“We have a really athletic squad this year, very versatile, a lot of depth in our squad so I think we have expectations of bringing that onto the field and bringing every element,” said Tyler.

Concerning the pitching staff, Tyler believes the seven Matador pitchers will be ready in any game situation.  The pitching staff will hope to continue CSUN’s under-the-radar feat of allowing the fewest home runs in conference play last season, according to Go Matadors.

“We have speed, we have spin, if we need to call anything at any time we can do it,” Tyler said.

Among the returning pitching staff is junior utility player Crystal Maas, who posted a team-high 5.18 strikeouts per game, although she only made nine appearances.

Matador true freshman center fielder Taylor Glover shares the preseason angst.  Glover represents the talented freshman class well, as she is coming off a stellar senior year in which she won All-CIF and All-American honors.  However, like her teammates, the high school All-American remains anxious for the season to start.

“Last week I looked at the calendar and thought ok we go in a week, not two [weeks], I’ve been excited since then,” Glover said.

With three consecutive road tournaments to start the season, the Matadors won’t host their home opener until March 1, when they host the Portland State Vikings at 11:30 a.m. and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 2:00 p.m. in a doubleheader at Matador Diamond.