The eight graduating seniors of the Long Beach State softball team were the highlight of the weekend as they filled up more than half of the starting lineup in the final game of the 2019 season. Long Beach (25-25, 12-9 Big West) fell to Northridge (26-28, 10-11 Big West) 2-1 Saturday, but secured 7-0 and 8-3 wins in the doubleheader Friday.
The 49ers wasted no time on offense in the first game of the doubleheader. Following an RBI up the middle by freshman center fielder Maddy Ruffin, senior shortstop Nichole Fry graced the game with a three-run homerun in the second inning. This homerun was her eighth of the season and 19th of her career.
“It felt really good,” Fry said. “I tried to play every at bat like it was my last one.”
The Matador offense was shut down throughout the seven innings by junior pitcher Kellie White, who struck out five batters and threw an unhittable changeup. Another notable player on defense was sophomore second baseman Katelyn Hanson, who defended the 3-4 hole with a backhand and an impressive flick to first base in the fifth inning.
The 49ers put runners on base and the game fell into their hands. Long Beach brought the score to 7-0 in the fifth inning with RBIs by sophomore second baseman Naomi Hernandez, Hanson and sophomore right fielder Alyssa Gonzales.
After a scoreless first game, Northridge put up more of a fight. The Matadors found their way to home plate twice in the second inning and once in the seventh, but they paled in comparison to the 49ers eight runs.
The third game of the weekend saw seniors in every defensive position besides pitcher and third base. This excited fans who showed their admiration by holding up posters and photos of the graduating players.
“It was great to be able to start all the seniors,” head coach Kim Sowder said. “We don’t do that all the time, so it was great to see them out there and competing.”
Senior second baseman Sophia Valenzuela made an impact during her time on the field in the first inning, as she fielded a ground ball and solidified an out at first.
The Matador offense shined in the second inning when Journey Rojas ripped a home run over the left field fence. Despite the powerful hit early on, the 49ers’ defense was able to hold it down behind White for a large portion of the game. A strong asset to the defense was senior catcher Taylor Jaurique, who caught runners stealing in both the second and fourth innings.
Jaurique showed up once again in the fifth inning, this time to pinch run for junior designated hitter Taylor Rowland. Senior designated player Lauren Lombardi smashed the ball through the left side of the infield, prompting Jarique to score the tying run with a head-first dive into home.
The seventh inning decided the result of the game as Gator Rascon finessed a smooth hit up the middle to bring in Journey Rojas and put Northridge in the lead by one.
Although the 49ers fell to the Matadors in their final game, the team remained positive. The seniors were escorted across the field by their parents as the crowd honored their accomplishments during their time at Long Beach State.
“I’m feeling really sad, but I’m just thankful for all the opportunities that I was given,” Fry said. “I’m really blessed to be a part of Long Beach and I’ll always be a 49er, Beach, Shark or whatever it may be.”