Jan. 14, 2010
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
In preparation for the upcoming 2010 season starting next month, the Cal State Northridge softball program has begun its first team practices of the year.
Associate Coach Roni Sparrey is in her first year at helm of the softball squad and will lead a 2010 roster heavy on experience and depth into this season. Those factors will be key in a season rife with change, where the Matadors will be tested with a challenging 52 game schedule.
With a tough schedule on the horizon, Sparrey has constructed rigorous workouts for her team, which she knows will prepare her team for what is to come.
"Our practices have been intense but positive," said Sparrey. "These types of practices are necessary in order to get them prepped for the long days ahead. Ultimately their work will pay off and they will be mentally tough throughout the season."
The Matadors return 13 letterwinners including eight starters and six seniors, who will compete against as many as 17 different NCAA Tournaments opponents in 26 games overall.
Northridge will be looking to build upon a successful 2009 season, which saw them finish 29-21, with wins over NCAA Tournament teams: Texas, Oklahoma State, Miami (OH) and San Diego State. CSUN also compiled an 11 game winning streak and finished fourth in the Big West Conference standings in 2009.
All six seniors returning had fantastic individual campaigns a season ago. Among the six seniors, two of the pitching staff's best pitchers return in their final seasons at CSUN.
2009 All Big West Honorable Mention Debbie Duran returns to the diamond in 2010, and will look to pick up where she left off last year, when she led the team in a host of categories including wins (18), earned run average (2.43), innings pitched (176.0) and strikeouts (79).
Also returning to the mound is Amanda Pitzenberger, who finished last season with a record of 4-2 and a 2.78 ERA. Pitzenberger went 2-2 against Big West competition during her junior season with an impressive 1.83 ERA in 10 league games, as opposing batters hit just .227 against her.
Olivas had four outfield assists for Matadors, while sporting a 1.000 fielding percentage. At the plate she drove in 10 RBI, eight of which were in Big West play.
Alvarado, a 2008 All Big West Honorable Mention, had a strong junior season at the plate last season, racking up 11 doubles and setting new career highs in hits (42), runs batted in (18) and sacrifice bunts (4). For her career, she has 28 doubles, which is eighth-most all time in school history.
Knowing it is her last year, Alvarado is excited about the type of season she can have but is fully aware that the challenge ahead will not be easy to overcome.
"This year I want to have a good time out there and have fun with the girls," said Alvarado. "Obviously, our goals this year is to finish above .500. We have a good schedule, but a tough one as well. If we do well and win those tough games, it will go a long way in getting us to the regionals this year."
Completing the trio in the outfield, Saenz adds another strong bat in the Northridge lineup. Saenz hit .303 in 2009 and set new career highs in runs scored (18), hits (37), walks (14), sacrifice bunts (6) and stolen bases (4).
With their outfield returning intact and a strong pitching staff in place, Saenz feels the 2010 Matadors has the intangibles for a successful run.
"Coming into this season, it feels good knowing how strong a team we have," said Saenz. "We have the heart, desire and overall presence to be a successful team in 2010."
Rounding out the six seniors is 2008-2009 Big West Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Jaclyn Rymer. The first baseman is one year removed from leading the team in batting average (.319) runs scored (31), hits (45), walks (22) and on-base percentage (.436).
Other returning starters include juniors Karla Chaparro, Krystal Raphael, Tracy Allen, Kristen Mihm, Jennifer Mosier and sophomore Jaci Carlsen. Also making her return to the circle for her sophomore season will be Hannah Fraijo who posted a 2.64 ERA last season.
A total of three newcomers will take to the field for the Matadors in 2010, including freshman catcher Mikayla Thielges, a transfer from St. John's, outfielder Erin Harris, and freshman pitcher Mia Pagano.
Northridge will begin the 2010 season on the campus of Arizona State for the KajiKawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona starting on February 12, where they will face six teams over a three day period, with four squads being 2009 NCAA Tournament teams which include Northwestern, Purdue, Texas A&M and National Champion Washington.
Next, CSUN travel to UCLA starting on February 19 for a challenging three day tournament consisting of four games with two each against tournament teams: Portland State and UCLA.
The Matadors open up their home schedule on February 27 as they take on Michigan State in the first of a three game series.
Following the series with Michigan State, Northridge will host the Matador Invitational from March 5-10. During the tournament, CSUN faces Iowa (two games), Santa Clara, Saint Mary's, Cal State Bakersfield and Notre Dame.
Other notable match-ups for the Matadors at home include double-headers with Oklahoma and Utah, and a game against Louisville.
CSUN also participates in the Bayer CropScience Classic in Fresno State starting March 11, where they will compete against five teams in four days, with two of the teams being tournament teams: Fresno State and Mississippi State.
The Matadors play four Big West Conference home series in 2010, with their league opening series coming on April 2 against UC Davis. The Matadors also host Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara in three game sets each this season. Their final home series will pit the Matadors and tournament team Cal State Fullerton in a three-game stand to end the regular season.
On the flip side, Northridge have three road series against in-conference competition with three games each at Pacific, Cal Poly and UC Riverside.
Despite the tough schedule ahead, Coach Sparrey is excited of the team that will step on to the diamond starting next month and the possibilities 2010 can bring.
"Our team goals are to stay strong all year long," added Sparrey. "We have to come to play every game, every inning, every at bat and every pitch. We have a lot of depth this season and are more determined than ever to make it to regionals."
Written by CSUN Media Relations Intern Nick Bocanegra