Headed into the new season, SF State’s softball team is focused on improving on their 12-40 record from last season.
First-year head coach Lisa Allen has inherited an experienced team with 14 returning players, including eight starters from last year’s team. Among them are starting pitcher Megan Clark and out elder/pitcher Aryn Guzman.
“The girls have been working very hard to become a team that’s determined to win no matter what,” Allen said. “They’re going to be battling more.”
Last season Clark started 24 games as a pitcher (4-18) and had a team-low 3.63 ERA. Allen said she has been mainly working with the pitchers during the offseason. Clark said she has learned new techniques working with the coaches.
Guzman started all 52 games as an out elder and appeared in 20 games as a pitcher. Guzman had a .255 batting average, three home runs and 16 RBIs last season.
Guzman said she has enjoyed her return to the field with a fresh outlook for a
team with a new head coach. Compared to last year, the team attitude is on a new level – players are having more fun and have no ill feelings toward practice, according to Guzman. She said she likes what she sees from her teammates, giving her the confidence that they can compete with the best.
“With our new attitude, new demeanor, we can compete just as much as anyone,” Guzman said. “We come to play.”
Guzman and Clark will look to improve their play under the tutelage of Allen, who spent the last seven years coaching at Montana State University Billings and led the Yellowjackets to 31 victories last season. The Yellowjackets won the 2015 Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championship under Allen and appeared in the NCAA regional tournament twice. Her team was runner-up in the NCAA sub-region championship game, according to the SF State athletics website.
To be the top team, players must give their best in order to compete in a conference that’s highly competitive and prepares teams for the postseason, Allen said.
Allen said she will not have any captains on her team because she wants everyone to feel like a leader at some point during the season. Allen said being a captain comes with added pressure and higher expectations, which isn’t fair to ask of a player.
“Someone’s going to help us win a game every time, and someone’s going to have a bad game,” Allen said.
Allen said that throughout the season the team must stick to Gator softball and focus on the fundamentals: base running, hitting and pitching, which they’ve been working on the last two weeks. They can’t dwell on games not going in their favor. The team must learn from their previous mistakes, adjust and move on.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people and different teams,” Clark said.
Having a large returning class will help over the course of the season because the players know their conference opponents, Allen said.
Guzman and Clark said they each have games they have circled in their personal calendar. Guzman looks
forward to playing against Cal State Stanislaus and Clark has her own rivalry against Cal State Monterey Bay.
Clark spoke confidently about the level of competitiveness the team will show throughout the season.
“Numbers are just numbers,” Clark said. “When it comes to the field, we have the heart. Even if we do lose, it’s definitely going to be a tough fight.”
The five-game opening weekend will be challenging, according to Allen, but should provide insight on what the team needs to work on.
The Gators open the season at home with a double-header against Northwest Nazarene University on Feb. 12 at 1 p.m.