March 26, 2014
Long Beach, Calif. -
Long Beach State kicks off Big West play with their longest road trip of the season, heading to Davis to play UC Davis in a three-game series Saturday and Sunday. The series starts with a doubleheader at Noon on Saturday, and concludes with a third game Sunday, also scheduled to begin at Noon.
The Beach holds a 23-7 all-time record against UC Davis in school history, all coming as conference members since the series started in 2005. Long Beach State swept the series last season, including a memorable 1-0 extra-inning shutout for Erin Jones-Wesley. The 49ers also won the last series in Davis in 2012, but the Aggies won the final game of that series, the last win for UC Davis against LBSU.
Offensively, the team picked up right where they left off this season, hitting .313 overall and closing out six games in run-rule contests. Long Beach State is slugging .475 as a team, with 29 home runs and 40 doubles on the year. The team has also been balanced, with seven players hitting over .300.
Long Beach State dipped behind Hawai'i in slugging percentage over the last week, but still leads the Big West in batting average, on-base percentage (.382), runs scored (178) hits (271), RBI (160), and doubles.
Ashley Holmes has had a big year for Long Beach State. The junior is second on the team with a .364 batting average, and is second in slugging at .625 on the season. She also leads the 49ers with seven home runs, and has 23 RBI on the season.
As a team, the 49ers have hit 29 total home runs. Holmes leads the team with seven, but sophomore Darian Tautalafua has hit 6 after leading the team with 13 last year as a freshman, and Ashlynn Booker hit three in her last action, including a walkoff shot against Texas to also start this week with six home runs on the year.
Cya Neal has come on of late - Hitting .356, third on the team, Neal is tied for the team lead with 37 hits, has a pair of triples, and leads the 49ers with seven stolen bases. Neal also has just five strikeouts in 104 at-bats, which ranks among the nation's best.
Junior Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi was named the Big West Player of the Week after going 5-for-12 in San Diego last week, hitting a pair of triples and driving in five RBI while scoring three times. The center fielder also made a game-saving catch in the final game of the weekend against the Toreros.
WHAT'S THE SCORE
All remaining Long Beach State games can be followed through Gametracker on www.longbeachstate.com, the official livestats provider for The Beach. Gametracker is also now viewable on all tablets and smartphones.
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 freshman 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 also earned Big West Pitcher of the Week honors March 3 after pitching a complete game shutout in a 4-0 win against Nevada. Jones-Wesley allowed just 3 hits in seven innings, striking out five in one of her best starts of the season. In the process, Jones-Wesley also tied the career Big West Record with her 14th Pitcher of the Week award.
Jones-Wesley passed Meredith Cervenka for one of two major pitching records at Long Beach State last week, setting the career strikeouts record, entering the week with 638 total Ks in her career. With two wins against the Aggies, Jones-Wesley could also tie Cervenka for the school's wins record with 78.
Big West records are also within reach for the senior. Her win over Syracuse, No. 68, entered her into the Top 10, while 645 strikeouts will make her the first 49er in the Top 10 in Ks in the conference.
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 is hitting .389 in 2014, and is tied for the team lead with 37 hits and has six stolen bases on the year.
Kimbrough's stolen base total has also moved the junior into the Top 10 in school history, where she currently ranks eighth all-time. Kimbrough needs one more to tie Lauren Johnson for seventh all-time, and is halfway to the all-time career leader, current LBSU head coach Kim Sowder, who stole 50 bases as an All-American at Long Beach State.
Lauren Lombardi's grand slam on March 14 against Texas-Arlington was the first for Long Beach State since a walk-off grand slam by Ashley Holmes against Syracuse on February 24th of last season. Lombardi has had an excellent first year with the 49ers, tied for the team lead with five doubles, hitting .311 with three home runs, and a slugging percentage of .541 on the year.
THIS AND THAT
With the March 14 win over UT-Arlington, Sowder gained her 250th career victory at Long Beach State. She becomes the second coach to reach that mark at LBSU, and the 9th coach in conference history to pass that milestone as a member of the Big West.
Long Beach State reached 20 wins for the 31st straight season ... The 49ers have never had fewer than 24 wins under either Pete Manarino or Kim Sowder, and have never finished under .500 under Sowder in her seven seasons at the helm.
Long Beach State will have eight games on ESPN networks this season, as ESPNU will show the first game of Long Beach State's doubleheader with Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, April 16, and ESPN3 has announced that they will carry the conclusion of that series. Additionally. Long Beach State's home series with UC Riverside on April 5-6 and Hawai'i on April 12-13 will also be shown on ESPN3 in their entirety.
The Beach opened up within striking distance of an at-large berth in the initial RPI rankings of the season, rating at No. 39 in the NCAA's service for guiding selections. The 49ers lead the Big West, but the conference had a fairly strong showing as a whole, with five teams in the Top 100, and even last place UC Davis rating only 153 entering league action. The 49ers also have a makeup double-header with No. 1 UCLA remaining on the docket, and the Bruins are currently 6th in the RPI.
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