Freshmen provide team-first menatlity for Sac State softball

State Hornet Staff

Adjusting to life as a college freshman and Division I athlete can be challenging when coming out of high school, but the transition has been effortless for the freshmen women of Sacramento State softball.

“The freshmen have come in the roles I’ve asked them to play [and] have stepped up,” said Hornets’ coach Lori Perez. “[They] fulfilled those roles and have done so with a team-first mentality.”

The freshmen on the squad include second baseman Zamari Hinton, infielder Marissa Maligad, pitcher Celina Matthias and infielder Cassidy Martin.

All of them are local products from Northern California. Hinton, Maligad and Matthias are from Elk Grove and Martin is from Antelope.

The women have contributed to the Hornets’ recent success, including a 6-0 record to start Big Sky Conference play, the first time the program has won its first six conference games since 1993.

Perez recruited the women when she was an assistant under previous coach Kathy Strahan, who retired in August 2013.

Prior to attending Sac State, the freshmen have had a close relationship for 10 years and consider themselves as sisters.

Previously, the women played together for the Lady Magic of Elk Grove, a local Amateur Softball Association of America travel team.

“We’re really close,” Martin said. “The transition is more comforting because they’re here with me, and I’ve known them for so long.”

Statistically, Matthias has been the freshman standout for the Hornets.

Recruited out of Pleasant Grove High School, Matthias was a pitcher on a list of players Perez and her coaching staff were looking at.

Perez said she was impressed with the right-hander’s past success and her skill set.

“She had success against some high-level teams in the ASA program and also in high school,” Perez said. “What I liked about Celina is the fact she could move the ball around; she could mix speeds and keep the ball down with her off-speed drop.”

She was awarded Big Sky Conference Pitcher of the Week on March 23, for her performance for the week of March 18-21. It was her first time receiving the honor in her collegiate career.

This season, Matthias carries an 8-8 record with a 2.95 ERA and has pitched 118 2/3 innings, which is close to 60 innings more than any other Hornets pitcher.

With pitching the bulk of the team’s innings, Matthias credits her work in the weight room for helping her get through games.

“All the conditioning and the weight training we’ve been doing really paid off,” Matthias said. “Everyone has been working hard in the weight room.”

Not only has Matthias been adjusting to life as a Division I student-athlete, but she also made the transition to living in the resident halls on campus. She lives in Sierra Hall with her roommate, who is fellow freshman teammate, Hinton.

“Living on campus is really different than home because you need to do everything basically on your own,” Matthias said. “The dorms are pretty fun to be in.”

Hinton has had success of her own.

When recruiting Hinton out of Sheldon High School, Perez was impressed with the second baseman.

“I liked her speed,” Perez said. “I liked the fact she could do things on the left side of the batter’s box, she could hit for singles and is a table setter.”

Prior to the start of the spring semester, Hinton was in a car accident on her way to practice and missed the team’s opening tournament on Feb 6 and 7.

“I was rear ended and I was forced to go to The WELL,” Hinton said. “I had muscle spasms in my back and I was out for two to three weeks.”

She was cleared to play when the team traveled to their second tournament at Fresno State on Feb. 13.

On the second day of play, she was given her first opportunity in the starting lineup against Santa Clara University, as she went 2-for-3 in a 4-3 loss against the Broncos.

Ever since, she has started in every game and has a presence as the number two hitter in the lineup.

Currently, Hinton is batting .277 with nine RBIs and could be a significant player in the future of the program, according to Perez.

“Zamari is somebody that I think will have an integral role on this team moving forward,” Perez said. “Once Kayla [Papez] is gone, I expect her to be the starter in that position.”

Fellow freshman Maligad has been a standout in the infield for Perez’s squad.

Like Matthias, Maligad was recruited locally out of Pleasant Grove High School and drew the attention of Perez because of her demeanor and versatility.

“Marissa was somebody that I was drawn to as a coach [when] recruiting because she’s tough, a gritty player [and] studies,” Perez said.

Maligad plays multiple positions on the infield including shortstop and third base, but also has experience as an outfielder, a position she primarily played in high school.

After a slow start to the season, Maligad is batting .313 with nine RRIs and has reached base safely in seven of the last nine games for the Hornets.

Fellow infielder Martin is regarded as a smart player according to Perez.

She said Martin’s strength as a player is defense, but she has potential to grow as an offensive player.

“Offensively she’s still growing and getting stronger,” Perez said. “As we see that come into fruition I think we’ll see if she gets another opportunity but she does a great job playing third and first base.”

Perez said all four of the freshmen are coachable players, as they have been reliable when she needed them.

“I’ve been impressed with the stability they provided for us,” she said. “That’s been huge.”