Softball features young talent on the field

Clifton Jones

As the new year is gaining momentum, so is the Sacramento State women’s softball team as it gears up for the upcoming season. Sac State is coming into this season with only two returning starting position players: seniors Kelli Frye (centerfielder) and Emily McCormick (third baseman).

This season Sac State will be moving to a new conference to compete this season in, the Big Sky Conference. The conference now consists of seven teams: Sac State, Portland State, Northern Colorado, Idaho State, Weber State, North Dakota and Southern Utah.

The Hornets lost six players from last year’s team, five of those being positional players and the other a pitcher. Sac State has 15 underclassmen – eight of those are freshmen and seven are sophomores.

“This is a rebuilding year with eight freshmen on the team, there is talent in the class, but will they handle the heat of the battle,” Coach Strahan said.

Centerfielder Frye said she is optimistic about the new crop of teammates, especially one teammate who carries a big stick: freshman Alexis Martinez.

“Martinez has really been hitting the ball well and may be used as a designated player,” Frye said.

Frye played the role of slapper last year to near perfection with a .348 batting average, three triples 17 RBIs. Frye, like many great athletes, said she still has to remember to work on the little things like fundamentals.

“I worked on my mental game and staying focused on the fundamentals,” Frye said.

Third baseman McCormick was clutch last season hitting .339 with runners in scoring position and a .382 batting average with two outs.

With six starting players from last year’s team, coach Strahan is looking to fill some of those spots with the new crop of players, like freshmen catcher Kortney Solis, pitcher Jennifer Hartman and the Martinez.

“Solis I predict will be our starting catcher,” Strahan said. “Jennifer Hartman has done well so far and looks like she will get a lot of playing time. Martinez will be prominent as the designated player and would see a lot of at- bats this year.”

The freshmen have a learning curve as new Hornets. They have to adjust to the pace of the game and the rules of their positions on the diamond, Strahan said.

Junior pitcher Taylor Stroud finished last year with a 14-9 overall record as a starter with a 2.55 ERA. Stroud, the most experienced of the Hornet pitchers, bolsters a pitching staff that is filled with two sophomores and one freshman.

However, Stroud brings on the demands of being a leader and uses her leadership to help her teammates out.

“The pressure is not really there for me as a leader, but to help my teammates,” Stroud said.

Stroud’s goal this season is to make sure she gives her team a chance to win.

“I want to do my best to put my team in positions to win the game,” Stroud said, “We have worked hard on perfecting our pitches and keeping our self in shape by running.”

Strahan is looking to her veteran leadership to carry the load throughout the season.

“Stroud and Caitlin Brooks will handle most of the pitches this year. McCormick is going to be leaned on this year along with Frye,” Strahan said.

Stroud and Frye both agree that the game to circle on the schedule is the home opener against University of Pacific on Feb.12.

Clifton can be reached on Twitter at @JonesSHsports