With temperatures this cold and recent snowfall, it’s hard to imagine softball. But it’s true: The CSU softball team is back in action after finishing 30-28 in 2007.
The 2008 season starts this weekend with the Cathedral City Kickoff tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., with CSU facing off against many teams ranked in the national polls.
The Rams will take the diamond for the first time today at 11 a.m. against the University of Oregon, who is ranked 20th in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)/USA Today poll. Later today, the Rams will face Portland State, who was picked to finish third in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference preseason poll.
According to a preseason poll released last week, the Rams are ranked fourth in the six-team Mountain West Conference, tied with New Mexico.
“We have high expectations for the season, as we have a talented core of returning players,” CSU coach Mary Yori said.
Yori plans to play about 14 athletes on a regular basis, including three seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen.
Yori said junior pitcher Kim Klabough, who is the team’s leading returning pitcher, is one of the players to watch.
“She is very talented,” Yori said of Klabough. “Her teammates believe in her and know she can get the job done.”
Other Rams to watch include three returning all-MWC players: senior third baseman Lauren Cusick, sophomore outfielder Allison Majam and sophomore catcher Ashley Munoz.
Munoz broke the Rams’ single season home run record last year, hitting 14 balls out of the yard. Cusick has been an all-MWC Player three times.
“I’m really looking forward to the 2008 season because I feel my team is extremely focused and motivated,” Munoz said. “Every girl on this team has worked extremely hard, and I really feel we are not only more experienced but much more talented than previous years.”
The Rams return to the field Friday a team loaded with youth and talent. The new faces of freshmen Eranne Daugharthy, Ivory Allen, LaLonnie Villa-Martinez and Caitlan Stem join retuning players such as seniors Julia Kloppe and Cusick as well as 2007 MWC freshman of the year, Munoz.
The underclassmen will be counted on for a large amount of production, Yori said, while the upperclassmen will be expected to provide the experience to lead the way.
CSU continues tournament play Saturday against the University of California-Davis, picked to finish sixth in the Big West Conference, and Winthrop University, picked to finish first in the Big South conference. Then on Sunday, CSU will wrap up the tournament by playing against University of California Riverside. In all, 15 teams will participate in the tournament this weekend.
After finishing the tournament in Palm Springs, the team heads to Las Cruces, N.M., to participate in the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces Classic next weekend — so they won’t be playing in the cold and snow.
Sports writer Rachel Knox-Stusman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.