The end of the road has come for the Long Beach State softball team, and despite its disappointing playoff run, it’s been a thrilling season that will go down in history.
During the regular season and conference play, Long Beach recorded 43 wins and 14 losses, making it the only Cal State softball team to be ranked nationally in Division 1 at No. 20.
In the Big West Conference, the 49ers were one of the most prolific teams throughout the whole season, with at least one player holding a top five spot in almost every statistical leader category.
Freshman outfielder Naomi Hernandez led the conference with a .387 batting average and sophomore designated player Taylor Rowland led with 58 RBIs. Pitcher Cielo Meza, who played her first full season for Long Beach following a shoulder injury, shined with a leading 1.46 ERA — 22 wins and 219 strikeouts.
Meza’s drive and devotion to winning and improving her skills any way possible was one of the most thrilling aspects of her play. It translated into powerful performances on the mound that showcased character and love for the game.
Even as the team continued to dominate nearly all of its opponents, it was the chemistry among the players that was the most exhilarating to watch all season.
The way Meza and senior catcher Lauren MacLeod would talk and make each other smile both on the mound and on the sidelines was incredible. The energy exerted from the pair was a marvel to watch.
The 2018 season saw 10 new players join the team. My first exposure to them was at one of the final practices before the start of the season — a time when the players were just beginning to mesh.
But through talking to them and hearing their stories of growing as a team and as a family, it was clear that this chemistry was going to carry into game play, and it did just that. The discussions between batters amongst the infielders, the support from the dugout and the positive energy at all times made every game all the more thrilling and fun to watch, even if the end result was at times a disappointment.
Seeing as many of the players are graduating seniors, it would’ve been nice to see the team have a better run in the playoffs.
While easier said than done, Meza should’ve been given another shot on the mound. Although her first game of regional play didn’t turn out nearly as well as it could’ve, she was still a talent to capitalize on.
Given the somewhat underwhelming performance of the first game, in which she only pitched about two innings and allowed three hits and two runs, Meza would’ve had the drive to deliver a stronger outing on the mound and help lead the defensive side to victory in the rematch against Ole Miss.
Long Beach was able to come back from a tough opening defeat and almost stand victorious in the regionals — and it was a thrill to watch. Though the team couldn’t rise to the occasion, the 49ers delivered an undeniably stellar season for the program.
While the team might be 10 seniors short, there will still be plenty of talented players to carry the 49ers to further victories, including Meza, who is currently in her sophomore year, Hernandez, who’s in her freshman year and shortstop Nichole Fry, who was just short of Hernandez with 74 hits and a .372 batting average and is in her junior year.
The graduating players helped bring the younger ones together to form a cohesive unit and the connections made this season amongst the team that can survive the departures of these seniors and thrive when new players join the team next season.