Apr 122007
 
Authors: Nick Hubel

The National Weather Service puts this weekend’s chances of snow at around 80 percent, and while that may be good news for late season snowboarders there is at least one group on campus that is hoping they got it wrong.

The Rams softball team, whose scheduled conference opener was spoiled by snow last weekend, is set to kick off their conference schedule this Friday. That is, if the weather cooperates.

“We are focused on this weekend,” Head Coach Mary Yori said Wednesday. “Mother nature is part of our game; that is just the nature of an outdoor sport.”

The Rams (21-18, 0-0) will host the San Diego State Aztecs in a double-header on Friday, and then play a two-game series against the Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels on Saturday and Sunday.

San Diego State, picked to win the conference in preseason polls, is currently 1-3 in league and 24-15 overall. Yori said that despite the Aztecs’ opening weekend slide, they are still a dangerous team whom the Rams have to respect.

“They have some very good pitching and are very well balanced offensively,” Yori said. “It is going to be a dogfight.”

The Aztecs are leading the league in batting average (.291), stolen bases (56), and ERA (an impressive 1.70). Individually, sophomore pitcher and infielder Melissa Owens, who has a team-high .364 batting average, with four homers and 19 RBIs, leads the Aztecs.

The Rams are 24-33 all-time against the Aztecs, who have put together impressive wins against No. 6 Oregon State and No. 20 Georgia Tech so far this year.

CSU’s second round of games this weekend will be against Nevada-Las Vegas. The Rebels currently lead the league with a 4-0 record (28-16 overall), having swept both Utah and Brigham Young last weekend.

UNLV was picked to finish second in the league in the preseason coaches poll, and before this year the team has never started a conference season with better than a 3-1 record.

The Rebels are led by redshirt freshman shortstop Jaci Hull, who has made an explosive impact on the Rebel’s lineup in her debut season. In 44 games, Hull has hit .408, with seven home runs, 14 doubles, and a staggering .720 slugging percentage.

The Rams will turn to their deep pitching staff for stability this weekend, with the four-game workload to be spread out between a number of different arms.

Sophomore Kim Klabough has been the team’s ace so far this season, amassing a 7-6 record, an ERA of 2.06, and 64 strikeouts in 19 appearances. Yori said that her team will need to get big games from everyone on the staff this weekend, something she believes her team is very capable of.

“We have four pitchers that we can send out there at any time,” Yori said. “We have a lot of versatility and depth on this team.”

Despite the difficult lineup facing the Rams this weekend, Yori said the team is just anxious to get things going after what has been nearly a two-and-a-half-week break.

“We can start with whoever at this point,” Yori said. “We have got our guns loaded and we are excited to play.”

Friday’s double-header against SDSU is set to start at 1:30 p.m. at Ram Field. Saturday’s game with UNLV will start at 3 p.m., and Sunday’s first pitch is set for 1 p.m.

Softball staff writer Nick Hubel can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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