While students suffer through cold weather and snow, the women of CSU’s softball team will be playing seven games in four days in sunny San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Competition kicks off for the Rams today at Cal-Poly, where the team plays a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m.
From there, the Rams stay in San Luis Obispo to play in the Mustang Round-up tournament where they will face San Diego, Southern Utah, Nevada, Sacramento State and UC-Santa Barbara, Feb. 7-9.
With a young, unproven squad taking the field for the 2002 season, the Rams struggled out of the gate and finished a disappointing 4-15, including a 1-8 home record.
The team, however, jelled at the Mountain West Conference tournament at the end of the season and finished a surprising third.
It is that strong finish that the Rams look to build on this season.
“We have a chance to go play in some warm weather and put our team to the test,” said head coach Mary Yori of the team’s games this weekend. “We’re excited to get started and feel like we have the opportunity to win some games.”
Adding to the confidence of this season’s team is the veteran presence of several returning upperclassmen – something the Rams lacked in 2002.
Junior pitcher Megan Masser and sophomore pitcher Melanie Mahoney head an improved Rams rotation that also features freshmen Genevieve Kelly and JayCee Wood, who appear ready to take some of the load off Masser and Mahoney.
“They are coming along really well,” Yori said of the freshmen. “They are up to the challenge of taking the next step.”
With little depth at the catching position it will be up to sophomore catcher Kerry Farrell, who started every game last season at catcher and works well with the staff, to bear a similar load this season.
“Everyone has been hitting well and our pitching has improved since the fall,” Farrell said. “Now we have the chance to show it all on the field.”
As for the rest of the infield the Rams are set as returning starters Ricki Walker (first base), Steph Roberts (second base), Brittany Burtner (shortstop) and Jen Mahoney (third base) man each position.
Offensively Yori said the Rams should employ more of a hit-and-run strategy to move runners around the bases as opposed to the sacrifice-oriented team of 2002.
“We’re going to be able to do more with the hit-and-run this season,” Yori said. “Bunting is still a critical part of our game, but we’re looking to do more slap hitting and running to confuse defenses. With more experience we can do that now.”
Apart from senior Katie Koch, the team’s outfield – composed of rotating freshmen Kelly, Carly Allen, Katie Dean, Melanie Laffoon and Jennifer Gardner – could be a weakness early for the Rams, Yori said.
However, if that remains the Rams’ only problem, their future could be brighter than the California sky.