With the 2020 softball season around the corner, the Long Beach State softball team will travel to Mexico Feb. 7-9 to participate in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.
The Beach will play five games in three days against some of the nation’s toughest teams, including No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 24 Oregon, according to ESPN/USA Softball rankings.
Long Beach is projected to have a bounce-back year, placing second in the Big West Preseason Coaching Poll, behind last year’s champions Cal State Fullerton.
The Beach looks to improve on last year’s run-of-the-mill season with a 25-25 (12-9 Big West) record behind six returning all-conference players.
Senior pitchers Kellie White and Ashley Coleman look to continue their stellar pitching that earned them both All-Big West honorable mentions last season. White finished the year with 11 wins, 101 strikeouts, and a 2.89 ERA. Coleman led the team in wins with 13, as well as two saves, including a no-hitter against Loyola Marymount on March 23.
Offensively, the Beach is led by junior utility player Alyssa Gonzales who finished the season with 50 hits and 40 RBIs in her first year. The transfer from Ole Miss earned All-Big West and All-Region honors, with a batting average of .338 and one of four players with an OBP over .400.
The Beach will also rely on its 2018 All-American senior infielder Taylor Rowland, only the fifth All-American in program history. Rowland continued her hitting ways in 2019 with 58 RBI’s and a batting average of .286.
She is accompanied by the former 2018 Big West Freshman of the Year junior outfielder Naomi Hernandez. Hernandez led the team in walks last season with 25 and started the season off on a five-game hitting streak, extending her total to 15 games, tying the record for fourth-longest in school history.
Sophomore outfielder Maddy Ruffin also earned an All-Big West Honorable Mention in 2019 and was selected in the Big West All-Freshman team with 18 RBIs and a batting average of .253.
The Beach will also face Nevada, Utah Valley, and George Washington during the course of the tournament.
Long Beach will open its tournament play against Nevada Friday, Feb. 7 at 8 a.m. at Puerto Vallarta Mexico.