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Softball Warriors seek an improved year
CSUS girls 1
Senior and co-captain Brittney Rickles makes contact with the ball for a line drive. Rickles is currently batting .400 after the first 11 games. - photo by Photo by Marty Bicek

The 2013 season was a rough year for the California State University, Stanislaus women’s softball team after placing dead last in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and posting a 9-27 conference record and 16-36 overall.

The inability to hit the ball plagued a struggling offense and defense that was on the verge of rebuilding as the team allowed the second most runs in conference play (212), next to Cal State San Bernardino’s 239 runs allowed.

The Warriors have not made the postseason since the 2008 season, a five year slump, since they posted a 31-23 record and reached the NCAA West Regionals. But this season looks to be different.

Looking into this new season with a new roster of fresh faces, the Warriors hope to turn things around for head coach Jan Schefkowitz who comes into her 17th season at Stanislaus.

“I just think we had a lot of potential last year and really we lost a couple of close seventh inning games earlier in the year and we just struggled finishing and couldn’t figure out how to close out games and we worked on it grinding till the end this off-season,” Schefkowitz said.

With the 2014 year underway the Warrior women have welcomed eight incoming freshman into this year’s roster and currently hold a 5-6 record after the first 11 games played. The team also has the help of their returning veterans, led by senior Brittney Rickles and junior Natalie Winters on the offensive side. 

 “I feel last year’s returners are wiser and prepared to be stronger, and while last year’s seniors, we missed them, we have to move forward. This year’s upperclassmen must be able to be tough and finish,” Schefkowitz said about her squad this year thus far.

Leading the pitching will be juniors Jessica Varady and Natalie Rendon, who hold a 5-5 record combined and each have an ERA of under 4.01.

Only five seniors are on the roster this year. They’re led offensively by Rickles (.400) and Brianna Nicholson (.364). The team is batting .327 but have found it tough to score runs as opponents are outscoring them 56-59.

“We talk about that to our team and we are built to be scrappy, powerful, but we need all our parts because we might hit bombs at times then suicide squeezes might have to happen other times. We need to be ready for any kind of game. We must have to have a complete game,” Schefkowitz said.

As of now, there are five freshman that have seen a hefty playing time in games, Cassidy Duke (11), Morgan Balestreri (8), Deenah San Luis (11), Danielle Kelm (6) and pitcher Karina Callazo (6).

Deenah San Luis and Cassidy Duke have already solidified their starting position on the infield as San Luis is protecting third while Duke handles second, respectively. Senior Rickles will anchor as co-captain from shortstop.

Catcher Amy Droege is the other senior and captain.

“I think our captains are terrific and we have a lot of new kids. We’re pretty young actually and our captains are doing a great job in getting ready to compete,” Schefkowitz said. “Both are doing a great job modeling toughness and competitiveness and they model it and preach it and believe it and it rubs off.”

All four fielders are currently hitting over .333 coming into the weekend matchup against CCAA foe, Chico State, who are dead least in conference (1-3) and have managed to put up the least amount of runs thus far (19) in only nine contests.

“We might not have a standout player tremendously but we have a team that works together to get it done and that’s how were going to win,” Schefkowitz said.

Defensively the Warriors will need all the help they can get from the pitching but also the fielding. Posting a .957 fielding percentage after 11 games has been a huge reason why the Warriors have been able to be successful in the early outings.

“This year the system is more understandable. We will need to play some good defense most of the time. We’re young, we will make mistakes, but the girls are growing and learning,” Schefkowitz added.

An added feature will be the ability to play night games with the new stadium lights at the Softball field.

The Warriors will travel to Chico State and take on the Wildcats in back-to-back doubleheader matchups beginning this Friday at noon with the closing game set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.