The air was still and the sun intense, cooking the Long Beach State Softball Complex as the team took the field for the last practice before hitting the road Friday for the final regular season series against CSUN, at which they won two out of three games.
You wouldn’t be able to tell the team is nearing the end of its 14-week season, as the players exude energy.
It has been an explosive season for LBSU, with 40 wins, three no-hitters, almost 500 hits and nearly 300 runs, and though the regular season is coming to an end, it’s not quite the end of the road.
Ranked No. 20 nationally, the 49ers have made it into the NCAA Women’s College World Series Tournament for the 24th time, which will begin with the Tempe Regional in Tempe, Arizona going up against the Ole Miss Rebels (30-23) on Friday.
Currently ranked No. 20, the 49ers have a good chance of making it into the NCAA Tournament for the 24th time and competing with 64 other teams from around the states.
Having started the season with 10 newcomers, including senior second baseman Grayce Majam, the team has blazed a trail of victories while growing closer to each other in the process.
Majam, who was proposed to by her boyfriend after the Cal Poly game on Senior Day, is happy to have finished her career at Long Beach, a place where she “truly loved playing softball again.”
“Just coming to a school where they welcomed me in to their family really easily, it was very humbling and a huge blessing in my life that I was wanted somewhere that they needed me,” Majam said.
Senior pitcher Jessica Flores, who recorded her first career no-hitter against Cal Poly two weeks ago, said she really enjoyed seeing the way her teammates have “meshed together.”
“We’re not a team, we’re family now,” Flores said. “We’ve grown so much and I’m comfortable with everyone on this team and I think they can say the same about us and me. They’re just awesome and they made it fun to be here for my last year at Long Beach.”
Flores, who described her final season as “unreal, bittersweet and sad,” is one of eight seniors on the team, including catcher Lauren MacLeod, who has enjoyed seeing the team progress this season, which she owes to “one of the greatest team chemistries I’ve had in this program.”
“Now, we’re all so closely knit together,” MacLeod said. “I think every person as an individual has grown to be a team player because of [the chemistry] and our seniors have risen to the top through their leadership.”
One of the shining stars on the team throughout the season has been sophomore pitcher Cielo Meza, who holds a 1.48 ERA across 170 innings pitched, threw 217 strikeouts and two out of the three no-hitters this season.
Meza said she credits the positive results her team has had this season to their “drive to compete and drive to win,” and is excited to see the “winning culture” they’ve developed and where the team will go from here.
“This has been an awesome year and it’s been a program-changing year, for sure,” Meza said. “I always feel like there’s room for improvement and I’m definitely going to come back hungry next year and I can’t wait to finish this season strong.”
Meza feels “really sad” to be seeing her upperclassmen teammates go after this season, but knows they will go on to do great things and that they’ve learned a lot from being in the program.
All of the players agreed that if they make it to playoffs, the mindset will not change, with the focus still on putting in the grind and taking one game at a time.
“We know that we’re going to have to play together,” Majam said. “Our mental training this year has been something that definitely pulled our team together in that aspect, not just on the field, but also as teammates becoming a family.”