Feb. 19, 2014
Long Beach, Calif. -
Long Beach State takes part in one of the biggest tournaments in the nation, the annual Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic held in Cathedral City, Calif. The 49ers will once again play five games for the third week in a row, starting with a pair of games on Thursday.
The 49ers begin the week facing LSU for the first time since the 1998 season, when the teams played twice in the NCAA Tournament, in the only meetings between the teams. In all, the 49ers will be facing rare opponents, having played no team scheduled more than six times. Additionally, Thursday's game with Maryland marks the first game ever between the schools.
Last season in Cathedral City, Long Beach State dropped two games to top teams in Tennessee and Arizona, but quickly rebounded to win three straight games, including two against teams that they will face again in Oklahoma State and Syracuse.
Long Beach State's returning players put up one of the best offensive seasons in school history over the 2013 season. The 49ers set team records for batting average (.288), runs scored (266), RBI (237) and home runs (53). The 49ers also had six offensive players earn All-Big West honors, while Shayna Kimbrough was named the Big West Player of the Year and Darian Tautalafua was the Big West Freshman Player of the Year.
Offensively, the team picked up right where they left off this season, hitting .331 overall and closing out two games in run-rule contests. Long Beach State is slugging .541 as a team, with 13 home runs and 13 doubles already on the year. The team has also been balanced, with six players hitting over .350 to start the year.
Ashley Holmes was a well-deserved Big West Player of the Week after a second straight monster week to begin the season. Holmes is in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak dating back to 2013, and has hit five home runs in nine games while leading the Big West in all three slash categories, hitting .519/1.074/.567 to start the season.
WHAT'S THE SCORE
All games played at the 49er Softball Complex can be followed via Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com, the home of Long Beach State athletics. The third game of the MNCC against Oklahoma State can also be followed on Gametracker this weekend.
Long Beach State has a number of players looking at career marks during the 2014 season. Foremost among the offensive players is senior Hannah De Gaetano. Her .334 batting average is the best career mark in school history entering the season, as the infielder has hit over .300 in all three seasons with The Beach. De Gaetano is also within reach of the school's career Top 10 in hits, doubles, RBI, and walks, while she already ranks 7th in school history with 13 home runs. While De Gaetano ranks 8th in career home runs at Long Beach State; she is not alone in the power surge among this year's 49ers. Senior Karli Sandoval leads the group with 18 career home runs, 4th in school history, while Darian Tautalafua's outstanding freshman campaign of 13 homers plus one in 2014 is one in front of De Gaetano for 7th.
Shayna Kimbrough's Big West Player of the Year season in 2013 was based in large part in a LBSU 2nd-place season batting average of .374 in 2013; the junior shortstop enters her third season at Long Beach State with a career batting average of .326, just behind De Gaetano's mark and one that would also be a school record if it remained the same following her career. Kimbrough is hitting .371 through 10 games in 2014, raising her total to .330 in her career.
Much of the 49ers success will depend on the right arm of senior Erin Jones-Wesley. Already one of the 49ers' most successful pitchers in school history, Jones-Wesley will look to continue to climb the record books while also attempting to win a second Big West Pitcher of the Year award, to match the honor she earned as a frehsman in 2011. A three-time All-Big West selection, Jones-Wesley can become just the seventh 4-time first-team All-Big West pick and the second at Long Beach State.
Jones-Wesley is within reach of two major school records by just maintaining her career averages. The senior could set both the school's career wins and strikeout records, where she already ranks in the Top 5 entering her final season. She needs 15 wins and 86 strikeouts to set both records, marks she has passed in all three of her first three seasons at Long Beach State.
Big West records are also within reach for the senior. 68 wins will put Jones-Wesley in the conference Top 10, while 645 strikeouts will make her the first 49er in the Top 10 in Ks in the conference.
THIS AND THAT
Long Beach State is in its sixth straight season competing at Cathedral City, dating back to 2009 ... The 49ers have only scored first in two games this season despite hitting .331 and scoring 58 runs in 10 games.
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