The Long Beach State softball team is alive, but on its deathbed in the race for the Big West crown.
After dropping their series against CSUN, the 49ers (22-24, 9-6) need to win their remaining six games and hope the Matadors stumble down the stretch. LBSU visit the Cal Poly Mustangs (22-27, 5-10) for a three game series on Friday and Saturday.
“Although we were a little disappointed with how we finished the series with Northridge, our focus is now fully with Cal Poly and trying to figure out their batters and get some wins this weekend,” assistant coach Stephanie Brown said.
The Mustangs entered the season picked to finish third by the 2015 Big West preseason coaches’ poll. However, after a disappointing season Cal Poly is sitting in seventh place.
The only highlight in Cal Poly’s season has been sophomore right-hander Sierra Hyland. The Mustang’s ace was named Big West Pitcher of the Year last season, and she is making a bid to win the award again this season.
Hyland owns a 2.20 earned run average and a 17-17 record. She also leads the conference in strikeouts with 218 in 228.2 innings pitched. Brown said the 49ers were wary of the pitcher, but said she was confident going into the series.
“Sierra Hyland did really well against us last year and we had a very veteran team,” Brown said. “We’re focusing on what her go-to pitches are. Hopefully we can attack those and kind of figure her out early.”
Junior outfielder Haley Tobler said LBSU must learn from its mistakes against CSUN, and have patience going up against Hyland.
“Everybody just needs to stay within themselves,” Tobler said. “And not get too anxious, I think that was our problem this past weekend. We were too anxious to swing the bat and we have to make pitchers work more.”
One of the most anticipated matchups in the series will be when sophomore catcher Lauren Lombardi steps up to the plate to face Hyland. Lombardi is hitting .348 on the season with 9 home runs and a new single-season record with 48 runs batted in.
Lombardi broke the record for RBIs with a seventh inning home run in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against CSUN. Lombardi said she was well aware of her accomplishment and that she won’t let it get to her head.
“[My reaction] was to not get too cocky with it,” Lombardi said. “But, it was awesome and an honor. I feel like [the RBI record] is an important one because it shows that you helped out your team.”
The previous record belonged to teammate Darian Tautalafua. The junior infielder set the record at 46 RBI back in 2013. Lombardi said Tautalafua only had words of encouragement for her.
“[Tautalafua] did mention something to me,” Lombardi said. “She was just really positive and happy for me.”
LBSU’s series against Cal Poly begins with a double header on Saturday and wraps on Sunday in San Luis Obispo. The first game of the series will be televised on ESPNU at noon.