May 6, 2014
Long Beach, Calif. -
The two teams tied at the top of the Big West Standings will close out the season with a three-game series that will go a long way to determine the conference champion. Long Beach State heads to UC Santa Barbara with the Big West title on the line.
Complicating matters is Cal Poly, who remains one game back of both teams - a sweep of UC Riverside for the Mustangs and a split between the 49ers and the Gauchos also throws the third-place team into the mix.
Long Beach State leads the all-time series with UCSB 77-37-1, and won last year's series, but dropped the last series on the road in UC Santa Barbara in 2012.
Offensively, LBSU picked up right where they left off from last season's record breaking campaign, hitting .309 overall and closing out 11 games in run-rule contests. Long Beach State is slugging .482 as a team, with 46 home runs and 66 doubles on the year. The team has also been balanced, with seven players hitting over .300.
Long Beach State leads the Big West in nearly every offensive category in 2014. Through May 5, The Beach is first in batting average (.308), OBP (.385), runs (288), hits (432), RBI (260), and doubles (66).
Shayna Kimbrough was named the Big West Player of the Year in 2013, and is topping her numbers in 2014. The junior shortstop is hitting .395 in 2014, and has 64 hits and seven stolen bases on the year while leading the 49ers in on-base percentage at .464. Her numbers are even better in Big West competition, where she's is hitting .400 and reaching base at a .471 pace.
Cya Neal is also sharing the offensive load at the top of the order. The senior is hitting .373 in Big West conference play, and is hitting .354 on the season, third on the team. Neal also 62 hits, has hit a team-high four triples, and leads the 49ers with 10 stolen bases. Neal also has just seven strikeouts in a team-high 175 at-bats, which ranks among the nation's best.
Senior Ashlynn Booker has been an important part of Long Beach State's recent surge. Booker is leading the team with a .421 batting average in Big West play, and is slugging .791 on the year, with 10 home runs in 91 at-bats. Booker also set a major school record with a 7 RBI in one game against Cal State Northridge on April 27.
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.
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.
Against Hawai'i, LBSU also passed 30 wins. Under Sowder, Long Beach State has hit 30 wins now in five of her eight seasons, and now 25 times in the program's 34 years.
Long Beach State had nine games on ESPN networks this season, as ESPNU showed the first game of Long Beach State's doubleheader with Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, April 16, and then ESPN3 carried 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 were previously shown on ESPN3.
After last week's losses, LBSU fell to No. 45 in the RPI, but can still make up ground with a good showing against UC Santa Barbara, second in the Big West with an RPI of 59.
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