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VIDEO: Long Beach College Softball Led By Strong Arms

Improvements in equipment and overall athleticism has made college softball more offensive every year. However, three talented pitchers at Long Beach State and Long Beach City College are bucking that trend.

At Long Beach City College, sophomore Alissa Cienfuegos is the ace pitcher and one of the best hitters for the Vikings. Last week, she was named to the FloSoftball Hot 100 Rankings as one of the top 100 junior college softball players in the nation.

Long Beach City College ace pitcher Alissa Cienfuegos

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“That’s an incredible accomplishment,” LBCC coach Megan Martinez said. “I’ve never seen an athlete like her. She is able to separate her offense from her defense and that takes a big deal of maturity.”

“I didn’t know about the award until my coach told me,” Cienfuegos said. “I was just really excited. Every award is a big deal. It shows you how much hard work can get you.”

Cienfuegos has 12 of the 21 wins in the circle for LBCC with a 2.29 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 156 innings. She’s also gone the distance in 16 of her 22 starts. Martinez said her effectiveness is based on changing the batter eye level.

“She is a very heavy ball pitcher,” Martinez said. “She moves the ball really well inside and out with an incredible changeup and the dirtiest drop ball I’ve seen in a long time.”

Cienfuegos also leads the Vikings in hits (43), RBIs (28), home runs (11) and slugging percentage (.809) with a .374 batting average. When she’s not on the mound, Cienfuegos plays shortstop.

“Pitching helps me at bat because I kind of know what they’re going to throw,” Cienfuegos said. “Sometimes it can be difficult and stressful, but it’s really great to be in that position.”

“She sets the standard pretty high,” Martinez said. “And the other players try to match her. They see her work ethic, and it’s a treat to have someone of that caliber playing for us.”

Cienfuegos, who said “I’m kind of like a mermaid” in terms of her love for the beach, won three straight CIF Southern Section championships at Carson High. She started pitching when she was 6 years old, and started travel ball when she was 12. That experience earned hear a scholarship to a college in Texas, but she didn’t make it to her second semester and came home. Cienfuegos now has offers from Indiana University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“This is one of those teams where you don’t want the season to end,” Cienfuegos said.

Meanwhile at Long Beach State, sophomore Cielo Meza and senior Jessica Flores are two of the biggest reasons the 49ers are ranked No. 18 in the nation this week. Meza leads the conference and is sixth best in the country with a 20-3 record. Flores might be the best number two pitcher in the Big West with an 8-1 record, three saves and a 3.16 ERA. She also plays center field and has a .373 on base percentage.

Long Beach State Softball ace pitcher Cielo Meza

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“Our pitching styles are completely different,” Flores said of her and Meza. “Her process is her rise ball. My pitches are my screw ball or my changeup. We both have a game plan to go straight after teams, but with different styles.”

Meza is playing her first complete season at LBSU after an injury, and leads the conference with a 1.39 ERA and 187 strikeouts. Last year when she returned midseason, Meza was Big West Softball Freshman Pitcher of the Year with first-team honors after posting a 1.28 ERA in conference play and a Big West-leading .172 opposing batting average.

“It was a frustrating process,” Meza said of the months of rehab for her injured shoulder. “I had to sit down and prepare myself to come back even stronger. I lost 15 pounds, but I got faster, stronger and healthier.”

Meza threw her second career no-hitter earlier this season against No. 22 Minnesota, and went on a 30.2 scoreless innings streak that included four consecutive shutout performances. She has nine shutouts this season.

“Cielo always pumps me up when she’s pitching,” Flores said. “I look up to her and try to do as good as she does because she’s always killing it.”

Meza is also a member of the Mexican junior national team.

“Anytime you can get a pitcher of her caliber in the circle, it gives the team lots of confidence,” Sowder said.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.
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