After the kind of year it’s been, Alyssa Gonzalez just wants to go out with a bang.
“This is my final year. I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old, so 18 years of softball is coming to an end,” Gonzalez said. “I’m going to take that opportunity and run with it.”
Long Beach State softball has been running its entire 2021 season just the way the senior first baseman wants.
The team sits in second place in the Big West Conference with a 24-6 overall record and a 18-2 conference record. Before dropping a single game last weekend against Cal Poly, the Beach was on an 11-game winning streak.
The team also has multiple players leading the conference in batting average, RBIs and ERA with top three players in conference wins, strikeouts and home runs.
Gonzalez is leading the charge, hitting the conference-leading .494 average with four home runs and 27 RBIs. She has also permanently taken over the starting first base job after being an important utility player in the infield and outfield in her previous seasons.
Despite the success, Gonzalez said playing during a pandemic has changed the way she and her teammates approach each game and series.
“Since we jumped into everything, it’s just go out there and play softball like we have since we were kids,” Gonzalez said.
Long Beach’s season didn’t start with as much promise. The first two weeks of the season saw COVID-19 protocol issues cancel five games, including its home-opener matchup against the former No. 1 nationally ranked UCLA Bruins.
A quick turnaround forced the team back into games quickly, playing three doubleheaders in the span of a single week. After dropping its first two games against San Diego, the team has won eight of nine series, sweeping six of them and solidifying its Big West competing record.
Gonzalez’s best weekend of the season came in a four-game sweep against UC Santa Barbara in which she hit .533 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Her efforts led to her second Big West Conference player of the week honors of the year.
With only two weeks left in the regular season, the team is looking at its toughest stretch. The Beach’s weekend Big West matchup against third-place Hawaii is currently underway, with the Beach taking the first two games on Friday night. Then comes the challenge of a makeup doubleheader against now No. 1 nationally ranked UCLA and a final four-game set against its rivals, first-place Cal State Fullerton.
These final three series of the season aren’t going to change Gonzalez’s approach to the game or to life.
She has been in the difficult position of a student athlete during the pandemic for over a year now, adapting to her solo training and practices over the recent offseason and going to the gym multiple times a week once it began to reopen. She has played games without any fans or her family in the stands, and she has withstood being thrown into a softball season.
Now, she’s looking forward to the challenge of the next couple weeks and for preparing her younger teammates for their future seasons.
“Yesterday’s over, today is happening and tomorrow isn’t here yet, so it’s time to move on and focus on the next series,” Gonzalez said to her teammates as her time at the Beach reaches its final inning.