A year removed from a 2006 campaign that saw the CSUN Matador softball team start slow but finish strong in Big West Conference play, the Matadors now look ahead to the 2007 season as a deeper squad looking to make it back to postseason.
In 2006, the Matadors looked to put behind a disappointing 2005 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Matadors held their own in the pre-conference schedule with a 11-10 record, but the struggles of 2005 carried over into the start of the 2006 Big West Campaign, as the Matadors went 2-7 in their first nine conference games.
However, rather than fold up the tents, CSUN fought on, and their resilience culminated in an 8-1 finish, a stretch in which the Matadors swept UC Riverside and UC Davis and took two of three from the Pacific Tigers. The Matadors finished tied for fourth in the Big West with an overall record of 22-20, 8-10 in conference play.
“We did a lot of team building last year,” head coach Barbara Jordan said. “We showed what we learned as the season progressed.”
Now, the Matadors look to carry the momentum from the end of the 2006 season into the 2007 season. Though the Matadors graduated four seniors in Janine Grund, Heather Martin, Jan Moshier and Jamie Pederson, Jordan feels the squad has more than enough depth to compensate for their loss.
“Obviously, you miss the people that graduate, but you look to the people that are currently here,” Jordan said “I’m happy with the people we have now and I look forward to watching them perform this season.”
Leading the way for the Matadors is sophomore utility player Amanda Peek. Last season, Peek announced her arrival into the college scene in a huge way, as she hit 13 home runs, batted in 27 runs and posted a .408 batting average, an .831 slugging average and a .470 on base percentage. Peek’s efforts landed her Big West freshman of the year honors as well as All-Big West first team and All-West second team honors. Peek however isn’t one to rest on just one successful season.
“I just try to keep working hard, keep having a good work ethic every day,” Peek said.
Peek won’t be the only one carrying the load this season. The Matadors also have an experienced group of talented returning players led by outfielder Jackie Duree, infielders Micah Putnam, Sarah Kahn-Shamout, Megan Smith and Kelly Zakosek and pitcher Sam Schroeder. Freshmen Alexandria Alvarado, Mercedes Lovato, Michelle Macias, Lauren Olivas, Amanda Pitzenberger, Miranda Ponce, Jaclyn Rimer, Christina Saenz and Krista Simko.
“We have more depth all around,” Jordan said. “We have more depth on the bench. We have more depth in pitching, more depth in hitting and more depth on defense. Overall, we have more depth all the way around.”
Zakosek has been among the leaders in the team’s practices and was recently named team captain for the 2007 season.
“I just mean I’m playing the same role I’ve played the last two years. Nothing changes,” Kelly Zakosek said.
“She’s definitely a team leader,” Jordan said of Zakosek. “She leads by example on and off the field, and one of the qualities she has is that she has tremendous heart.”
Despite the strong finish, the Matadors were picked to finish sixth out of seven in the Big West preseason polls. Despite that, the Matadors rather choose to focus on the potential of the team.
“We’re going to be better than last year,” Jackie Duree said. “We’re a solid team (all around),”
Despite having more experience and depth, the team has still yet to add a win to the season. The Matadors struggled in the Arizona State Kajikawa Classic over the weekend, losing their season opener to 17th ranked Texas 3-5 on Feb. 9. They followed the loss with a 5-5 tie against Utah that same day. The team played another doubleheader the next day, losing both games to Oregon and Ohio State. They ended the weekend with a 1-2 loss to 20th ranked Fresno State.