On the final day of the regular season and on senior day for both teams, Long Beach State softball (30-9, 22-2 Big West) won the Big West Conference championship. The Beach won 1-0 Saturday afternoon and swept all three weekend games against their rivals, Cal State Fullerton (38-15, 21-3) in front of a home crowd.
The title is Long Beach’s first since 2014, the ninth overall in school history, and marks Kim Sowder’s fourth Big West title in her 15 years as head coach.
“This is without a doubt the most special series ever played here. For it to come down to having to beat your rivals three times and pulling that off after them being undefeated, you can’t write it up any better,” Sowder said after the game.
Long Beach forced the winner-take-all game after a pair of victories against the Titans on Friday night. Long Beach’s best pitcher all season, Kellie White, pitched all 14 innings and threw 225 pitches during the Friday night doubleheader sweep.
The title game was a pitcher’s duel, with both team’s starting pitchers, White for Long Beach and Sophie Frost for Fullerton, only giving up a single hit each the first three innings of the game.
In the fourth inning, a pair of base hits from a pair of seniors, Suzy Brookshire and Breezy Wise, set up a squeeze play by Emily Salazar to move the runners to second and third base. However, Fullerton was able to force a ground ball and a pop-up to get out of the inning unscathed.
Fullerton’s offense responded the next inning and threatened to score the first run, moving a runner to third base with only one out. A web-gem play by Brookshire at third base and White’s sixth strikeout of the game ended the Titans’ rally.
Long Beach played small ball in the bottom of the fifth inning, with two singles and a HBP loading the bases for Breezy Wise in her final regular season at-bat for Long Beach. She took a 3-1 pitch for an RBI walk, bringing in outfielder Rylie Seip to make the game 1-0.
The Titans didn’t go down quietly, as they doubled their hit totals for the day off with two one-out singles. A controversial HBP call by the home plate umpire loaded the bases with two outs and forced the Long Beach pitching coach to come in and reset White in her 21st consecutive inning pitched.
The next Fullerton batter, Alyssa Hernandez, hit a grounder to second base for the unassisted force-out and secured the Big West title for Long Beach.
White pitched all seven innings of the game for the Beach, striking out eight Titans and only giving up four hits and a walk. White’s dominant weekend totals included all 21 innings pitched, 21 strikeouts and 334 pitches thrown.
“I refused to lose this weekend so I did anything that it took to win,” White said following the victory.
The team stormed the field to celebrate after the final out, completing the sweep of their formerly undefeated rivals, and capping off a memorable season for Long Beach State softball.
The 2021 NCAA Selection Show will air live Sunday May 16th at 6 P.M. on ESPN2 and will make official the Big West champion’s seeding and first opponent, with regionals scheduled to begin on May 2nd.