After its NCAA tournament run in 2018, the Long Beach State softball team has a couple things missing entering this season: 10 seniors and a star pitcher.
With an overall record of 43-14, the 49ers found themselves in the first round of the NCAA tournament with the help of sophomore starting pitcher Cielo Meza, who earned 219 strikeouts, maintained a 1.46 ERA and was selected for the All-Big West and NFCA All-Region teams in the 2018 season.
A big piece of the team’s success is gone now, but head coach Kim Sowder is confident with her pitching staff. She plans on heavily utilizing junior pitcher Devyn Magnett, who had 10 wins last season with a 3.08 ERA. In addition to Magnett, juniors Kellie White and Ashley Coleman who transferred from Utah State and Cal Baptist respectively, will play big roles from the start of the season.
A challenge heading into the year for Sowder was rebuilding almost half of the roster, a tedious task for a coach who is coming off a postseason run.
While the team didn’t necessarily get younger, it lacks the chemistry and experience that made last year’s team special. In order for the 49ers to get back into the tournament, they will need things to click together as fast as possible. While it’s common for college teams to face overhaul from year to year, losing 10 seniors messes up any identity that Long Beach had formed.
There is still a lot of talent with players like junior infielder Taylor Rowland returning, who was named second team All-America, making her the fifth in Long Beach State history to earn the honor.
With a strong pitching rotation, award-winning returners and well-experienced recruits, the team has the potential to build on top of its short NCAA tournament run last season. Everyone loves a comeback story, but in order to complete it, the 49ers will need to quickly recreate the intensity of last year’s team. Talent can only get a team so far, but chemistry is the factor that will push it even further.