Pioneers Softball Looking To Rank in Top Four

Aldrin Bulayo / The Pioneer

Amanda Zepeda

Kassandra Winger, second baseman, is as sure handed as it gets for the Pioneer infield.

It’s just about that time of year again, as the CSU East Bay softball team is ready to put on a good show this upcoming season.

Getting ready for her fifth year at the helm for the Pioneers, Coach Barbara Pierce is pleased with the motivation and the mentality the team has in welcoming in the 2011 campaign.

“It’s easy to get really excited right before you play, so we’re riding that right now, says Coach Pierce. “We’re really anxious and excited to get on the field, and we’ve been practicing so much. It’s going to be great to put everything together and see what we really have.”

The 2010 season saw CSUEB’s first time out in the CCAA, Division II play.

“Last season was a building block year for us,” said Pierce. “It was a real inventory year—a year where we could see what all the other teams in the conference had and what we needed to do in order to compete and be successful. We’ve also really reloaded over the summer.”

Ten new athletes have been added to the roster, completing a 19-woman squad that is both healthy and ready to go.

Part of that cast of newcomers includes Kassandra Winger, one of two captains for the Pioneers this season. The senior, from Ohlone College in Fremont, is not only bringing to this year’s team her experienced leadership, but also previous accomplishments and success.

Winger began playing softball at the age of five while growing up in Hayward. In her high school career, while attending Livermore High School, she played three years of varsity softball, where she made the 1st Team All-League her junior year.

As a freshman at Ohlone College, she made first Team All-Conference, and, as a sophomore, made first Team All-State, along with current teammate and pitcher, Kelly Colker. She also went on to receive the MVP award that very year.

Center fielder Nikki Frielberg, a power hitter and team captain for the Pioneer, squares off on a pitch.

This year, Winger looks to add to her success as team captain and second basemen for CSUEB. In her first and last year as part of the Pioneers softball squad, Winger has high hopes for this year’s team.

“As of right now, I am extremely excited to start my last season with this group of girls,” said Winger. “Each member of this team has something unique about them that makes CSUEB Softball so enjoyable, and I wouldn’t want to spend my last year with any other group. This team is striving to be top four.”

The Pioneers are anticipating a strong pitching rotation consisting of five pitchers who are all expected to receive playing time, and a lineup that will hit for power, along with a solid defense.

Entering her senior year, team captain Nikki Freiberg is set to lead the outfield at her center-fielder position with her speed and a sure-handed glove.

With Winger hitting in the leadoff spot for The Pioneers, and Freiberg hitting in the middle of the lineup, this duo of team captains look to be the anchors of this year’s lineup.

“Those two are really going to set the tone for us this year, both in games and in what they bring as captains emotionally to the group as well,” said Coach Pierce. “They are very solid softball players, and we’re going to follow their lead all season long.”

Over the offseason, CSUEB added three new assistant coaches to join coach Barbara Pierce and the rest of the lady Pioneers.

Of those assistant coaches includes Nicole Neuerburg, who brings an impressive collegiate and professional resume into her first year at CSUEB. Neuerburg, a pitcher out of Division I Texas State from 2001-04, was the 2002 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year after leading the Bobcats to the regular season title and a 23-4 record in league play. During her time at Texas State, Neuerburg was named All-Southland Conference four times, and helped guide the Bobcats to two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Following a dominant college career, Neuerburg went on to play for the Texas Thunder of the National Pro Fast pitch league for one season.

With an improved coaching staff and a team that has experienced their share of success, CSUEB softball is set to bring in the 2011 season.