Softball Looks to Finish Season Strong

Kevin Vera and Kevin Vera

With an 11-13 record for the season, CSU East Bay’s softball team is on pace to finish the season strongly, improving greatly over last year’s performance.

Last year’s squad included several freshmen who have stepped it up in their respective positions, and as sophomores, have used their experience well. The team’s success occurs mainly at home, where they’re 8-2 so far, and 6-12 in conference play.

“Our season is going very well,” said sophomore first base Emily Montanez. “Our team works great together, which really creates a great environment to play in.”

“We had a great weekend going 3-1 over Humboldt. Overall, we’re 11-13, which is a huge improvement over last year.”

Evidently, the performances have been strong all season and the best way to showcase such efforts comes in the form of junior catcher Taylor Neumann, who most recently was named California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Player of the Week.

“Individually, we have really improved,” said Montanez. “I think our defense is really strong and each player really contributes at the plate.”

While individual performances might be good statistically, the University’s softball program is respected by its players as a team effort, knowing that without chemistry, things may not turn out as they want it to.

“Our whole team is strong,” said sophomore pitcher Kelly Lowe. “Individually, we are all great, but the thing is that softball being a team sport, the whole is greater than the parts, so our team is strong because of all the talent that we have.”

Lowe is the team’s starting right-handed pitcher, and is having a great season so far. With a record of 4-4, she also has an ERA of only 3.10 on her way to striking out 40 batters and counting.

“Our team goal is to finish top four in conference,” said Montanez. “Unfortunately we aren’t eligible to go to [the] postseason since this our second year in Division II, but I’m excited to see how the rest of the season turns out.”

NCAA regulation requires teams that switch divisions wait two years before they can compete in postseason games. The team looks playoff-ready this year, but since they are unable to participate, perhaps the following season they’ll be able surprise unsuspecting teams during the postseason.

An obvious part of the team’s success is not only the players themselves, but the coaching staff that has improved this team greatly in just one season. Led by head coach Barbara Pierce, the coaching staff is packed with former softball stars and great coaching assistants.

“Our coaching staff is great this year and totally new, except our head coach Barbara Pierce,” said Lowe.

“The experience brought in by the hitting and pitching coaches is helping our team reach new levels of excellence. Also, practice is more fun and diverse this year making for a better work environment.”

The development of the team is coming along faster than anticipated, but with only one freshman on the team, will there be enough experience on the field next year?

Freshman catcher Cassidy Zeiner, for the time being, remains the youngest building block for the future for this team, and looks to learn as much as she can from her teammates before she can take the field.

“We’re all kind of like a family,” said Zeiner. “We all have each other’s backs. I definitely get a sense of that, and I feel like the little sister of the group so I have a foundation underneath me.”

“They’ll tease me and they’ll give me a hard time, but it’s all out of love.”

Expectations for the young catcher may eventually entail the role of team captain and exemplary veteran within a matter of seasons, indicating that she has a lot of work and effort to put forth.

“[I want] to keep up with the work ethic, never let up, never back down and play the best game that I can play and leave it all on the field, 110 percent, everyday,” Zeiner said.

Upon the team’s eligibility to play in the postseason, we’ll see great individual performances, but most importantly a tough team that has the possibility to succeed beyond the regular season.

“No one plays selfishly,” said Montanez. “We play for each other and pick each other up. No one is left behind—we are a family that plays together and succeeds together.”