Softball Kicks Off Season at Concordia Kickoff Classic

Dylan Anderman, Sports Editor

Softball Kicks Off Season at Concordia Kickoff Classic

California State University, East Bay’s women’s softball team kicked off the season down in Irvine, Calif. At the Concordia Kickoff Classic between Feb. 2 to Feb 5. Despite a tough start to the tournament, East Bay followed up with two big wins on Saturday and one on Sunday, finishing the weekend on a three-game win streak with a record of 3-3.

While East Bay eventually recovered with a three-game win streak, the Pioneers opened with a loss to the Concordia University Eagles, followed by two close games against Colorado Mesa University and Azusa Pacific University.

The Pioneers finished the tournament with three statement wins, defeating Central Washington University’s Wildcats (CWU) with a score line of 8-3; University of Hawaii, Hilo’s Vulcans (UHH) 11-6; and Western Oregon University’s Wolves (WOU) 4-1.

Pioneer pitcher Ana Beard attributed the early losses to low energy at the start of the games. “We are a team that relies on each other’s energy to get us going from the very first pitch. Our team’s success comes from constantly being in the game from the very beginning and never letting up.”

Following the two close losses, the team came out hot and started with plenty of energy. Center fielder Sarah Duran kickstarted the Pioneers’ momentum in the first inning against the Wildcats, hitting a single up the middle, followed by five hits and five runs in the same inning.

The Pioneers continued their offensive dominance in the third inning when they loaded the bases for true freshman Cynthia Carillo, who doubled to right center, driving in three more runs for the East Bay team.

The success didn’t just come from the offense, as Pioneer pitchers, Lex Palmon and Savannah Barchus, held the Wildcats to three runs and seven hits, helping them secure the first win of the weekend.

The Pioneers’ offense continued to thrive throughout the evening of Feb. 4, loading the bases in the first inning against the Vulcans. Pioneer catcher Annelise Garcia, then doubled to left, scoring two runs. This was followed by shortstop, Gabby Rivera, hitting a single up the middle to give the Pioneers an early 3-0 lead.

Duran led off the second inning with a walk. She then stole second, and after, advanced to third and scored due to two wild pitches. Garcia kept the momentum going by hitting a sacrifice fly that put the Pioneers up by five.

In the fourth inning, the Pioneers took an enormous lead. With multiple fielding errors and three hits, the Pioneers managed six more runs in the game, giving them an 11- 0 lead.

The Vulcans followed with a big fourth inning, scoring five runs. Despite the comeback effort, it wasn’t enough to take down the Pioneers, who won the game 11- 6.

A key part of the Pioneers’ success was Ana Beard’s spectacular performance on the mound, priming the East Bay team for success by going the first three innings and securing the win by going another four innings after being substituted back into the game. She finished with a total of seven strikeouts while giving up a single hit along with one run scored.

Descending from their highs on Saturday, the Pioneers played a tough matchup Sunday morning against WOU. The Wolves were radiating with confidence going into the match against the Pioneers after accruing a tournament total of five wins and zero losses, including a big win against CSU San Marcos’ Cougars — the top CCAA team.

The game proved to be a dogfight early on, with the Wolves scoring the first run of the game in the first inning. As the Pioneers left two stranded in the first, the team bounced back in the second inning, thanks to Sydney Littles’ scoring on a wild pitch, which tied the game 1-1. The Pioneers lineup continued to put runs on the board in the third inning, with Rivera hitting a single and driving in two runs to take the lead.

Resuming her hot streak, Ana Beard had another solid showing against the Wolves, throwing a complete seven-inning game, striking out six batters, and giving up a single run. Beard’s phenomenal performance shut down the Western Oregon offense and led to a Pioneers win, with the final score being 4-1.

By the end of the weekend, East Bay third-year and tournament ace Ana Beard posted a 1.74 Earned Run Average (ERA) in 20.1 Innings Pitched (IP). She recorded 17 strikeouts and two wins. When asked about the secrets behind her success, “being confident in knowing all the work that I have put in gets me ready for this moment,” Beard claimed.

Recognizing that she isn’t alone in her accomplishments, however, Beard expressed gratitude to her team, noting, “I attribute my success to that and my team, knowing that [they] will pick me up offensively and defensively.”

Aside from Beard, Sarah Duran is another notable player for the Pioneers. The center fielder began the season on the CCAA players’ watchlist, closing out the weekend on the All-Tournament team. She went 8-21 with two runs batted in, two walks, and six runs, proving to be a reliable asset that the Pioneers needed to pull ahead. “Duran really set the tone for our offense and was just impressive all weekend long,” shared Claire Amundson, Head Softball Coach for the Pioneers.

Joining Beard and Duran, newcomer Cynthia Carillo has performed well over the tournament weekend, hinting towards an illustrious college career ahead of her. The true freshman utility player had a big weekend, going 3-10 with three doubles and five runs batted in.

Coach Amundson praised the freshman, stating “Cynthia Carrillo really showed well for her first weekend and I am excited to watch her compete this season.”

The Pioneers were quick to make the right adjustments when needed, with Coach Amundson explaining that “We responded really well by simplifying our approach at the plate and just attacking good pitches.”

While the Pioneers are celebrating the highs of last season, the East Bay team is looking to follow up on their success with more wins this season. “I just held onto what we accomplished as a team last year because I knew that I wanted more,” Beard said regarding last season, determined to make the upcoming season her best one yet: “This is my last season and as a senior, I want to go out with no regrets. I have to remember to not let the game get too big and to have confidence in the moment.”

With promising new players on the roster reinvigorating the team’s drive, the team is dialed in for a stellar season. Coach Amundson is excited about the new talent commenting, “Although we are younger, we also have more tools than we did last year. I am really confident in the athleticism and energy that this team brings every time they take the field.”

The returners have welcomed the new faces, nurturing their passion and their potential. “You can see that we all have the desire to play and to win. The expectation is to see a team who wants to work even when the game gets hard,” Beard said

To win the CCAA tournament, the softball team plays hard and plays together. “Our conference is the toughest conference in the West so that competitive energy will be necessary to make it back to the CCAA tournament,” Coach Amundson noted.

Following an outstanding weekend, the Pioneers advance to play their next game on Friday, Feb. 10 against Holy Names University and Tuesday, Feb. 14 against Academy of Art at the Pioneer Softball Field — both doubleheaders. Boasting a home-field advantage in both games, the Pioneers hope to extend their win streak. League play is around the corner and the CSUEB softball team is ready.