#38 Long Beach State Softball Preview

Long Beach State 49ers

Overall Rank: #38
Conference Rank: #2 Big West
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Fans of this Southern California powerhouse may not be very welcome to people from Syracuse for a while. It was the Orange that ended Long Beach State’s season with 2-1 and 4-2 losses in the NCAA softball regional. Of course, Long Beach State beat LIU-Brooklyn, proving the team can win at the NCAA tournament level. The 49ers clinched a share of the Big West Conference softball championship with a solid record, but its non-conference slate was a little disappointing. The 49ers would like to improve to 30 wins or over in 2013, but a hard slate in February and March may make that difficult. Still, four NCAA tournaments and two Big West titles in six years is pretty good.

2012: 29-25, 16-5
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kim Sowder

Field Players:
Long Beach State brings back a solid base to build on for 2013, as all four players that hit .300 or better are back for another go-round this season. In addition, seniors Ashlynn Booker and Nalani St. Germain, two of the top home-run hitters, are back, as is junior Hannah De Gaetano. The three combined for 15 of the 49ers’ 23 home runs a year ago, so the power is back in the lineup. Long Beach State isn’t really a fast team (41 steals in 53 tries), but the top three base-stealers are back in Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi, St. Germain and Shayna Kimbrough. The 49ers won’t need to plug too many holes, because the only hitter not returning is Megan Denio, who hit .294 a year ago. With a strong hitting lineup, Long Beach State should be set for 2013.

Three of the top four pitchers are back, but there is a slight problem. Taylor Petty, whose 8-3 record and 1.24 earned run average anchored the relief corps a year ago, has graduated, and that means someone will need to step in and close games. Otherwise, Erin Jones-Wesley is back with a 21-13 record and 2.02 ERA. Her problem is simple. Although Jones-Wesley struck out 176 batters, she issued 108 walks. How many of those walks turned into runs is unknown, but Jones-Wesley gave up 66 earned runs and 96 total runs. She also surrendered 14 home runs, a pretty big amount for 34 decisions. Christian Carbajal and Amanda Hansen are also back, but neither pitcher won a game a year ago. This will be the albatross until it is determined how the rotation fills in.

Who to Watch:
Selene Pola pitched in nearby Santa Ana for Segerstrom High School, and her extensive experience on travel ball teams that won national championships could make her a pitcher to watch come 2013. Pola went 15-3 with 113 strikeouts and a 0.77 ERA as a high school junior, and all indications are she can step in and create plenty of opportunities for the 49ers in 2013.

Final Projection:
The 49ers return all but one hitter and one pitcher to the lineup. That means Long Beach State, barring a total collapse, should duplicate its 2012 performance. How well it does truly depends on the pitching. Jones-Wesley needs to cut down on her walks and amp up her strikeouts, and Pola (assuming she starts or relieves) needs to fit in immediately in order for the team to succeed. The Big West should not provide too much tough competition – after all, Long Beach State only lost five games a year ago in league play – but the 49ers need to win more games outside the conference to create more of a fearsome attitude. A 30-win season should not be out of the question, but it is what happens afterward that will count most.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Hannah De Gaetano, 3B, 173
Hits: Hannah De Gaetano, 3B, 57
Home Runs: Ashlynn Booker, 1B, 6
RBIs: Hannah De Gaetano, 3B, 29; Nalani St. Germain, OF, 29
Runs: Cya Neal, SS, 24; Shayna Kimbrough, 2B, 24
Stolen Bases: Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi, CF, 8

Wins: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 21
Innings Pitched: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 229
Strikeouts: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 176
Saves: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 3

Madness 2013 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#22 Darian Tautalafua


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