Playing a grueling four doubleheaders in the span of four days, the SF State softball team relied on strong pitching and timely hitting to maintain their recent high level of play against tough competition.
Although they got swept on the road by the Cal State East Bay Pioneers in a non-conference two-game series April 10, the Gators (15-28) went 4-4 over the four-day stretch of eight games.
“We’ve scored in the first inning in three of our last four games,” Byrne said. “That sets the tone. In fact, in the games that we have won, we have scored and hit home runs. I have something to look forward to. We’ve been playing well in this stretch.”
After sweeping Notre Dame de Namur 8-6 and 11-4 in two non-conference games April 7, SF State split two doubleheader matches at home against the Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes, who are 28-17 overall and 15-13 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Not only did the Gators go toe to toe with the fifth-best team in the CCAA, but they also scored a total of 11 runs in the four-game conference series.
“Our power has been great for us,” Byrne said. “Against a team that scores a lot of runs, we need hits.”
In each doubleheader, both teams played hard, and all four games were decided by three runs or fewer: On Friday, SF State lost the first game 7-6 in eight innings, but won the second game 2-1; the next day, the Gators defeated the Coyotes 3-1, but were beaten 3-0 in the final game.
“I was just trying to come out strong and give a good performance,” said senior right-handed pitcher Ashley Jackson, who pitched games one and three. “They had a lot of hard hits. I wanted to keep the batters off balance.”
Jackson and sophomore right-hander Marisa Ibarra took the mound for the Gators for most of the series. Ibarra had an impressive start in game two, allowing one earned run on two hits with six strikeouts and a walk for her sixth complete game of the season.
Jackson followed that up by throwing her team-high seventh complete game in game three. She had no walks, gave up one earned run on six hits and struck out five hitters on 112 pitches.
“Ashley pitched incredibly well,” Byrne said. “She did a good job of switching speeds and pitches. She also had amazing defense behind her. Cal State San Bernardino has consistently scored 10 or 11 runs, and for her to keep them at just one is an amazing feat.”
Still, as much as the Gators tried, they couldn’t muster much momentum in game four. The team scattered just three hits compared to the onslaught they had in game three, two of which came in the form of solo home runs.
“In the third game we went after them, but in the finale, we were tired and a little flat,” said sophomore outfielder Kylie Herrada. “Fatigue started to set in.”
SF State will have another four-game home stand, this time against conference foe Humboldt State University beginning April 15.
However, the highlight of the season for the team so far was the way they competed in this long and grueling eight-game homestand. Despite being 8-20 in the CCAA, the Gators proved one thing: It takes a lot of energy to play so many games in such a short time.
“It’s been a long weekend,” Byrne said. “But we knew that coming in. We are going to go home and get some rest and do this all over again.”