The No. 20 Long Beach State softball team is making its seventh NCAA postseason appearance in the last 12 years under coach Kim Sowder. LBSU (42-12, 16-5) starts the Tempe Regional hosted by Arizona State by playing Ole Miss at 4 p.m. on Friday. The game will be televised live on ESPN.
“This is the most exciting time of year for our sport,” Sowder said. “We’re happy to still be playing.”
Ole Miss (30-23, 7-17) has lost five of its last seven games, including a first-round defeat to LSU at the SEC Tournament. Ace pitcher Kaitlin Lee has 16 wins in 27 starts this season with a 2.28 ERA. She has 80 strikeouts and 34 walks in 165.2 innings.
LBSU is ranked No. 25 in the nation with a .307 team batting average, and it was honored by the Big West earlier this week with nine different 49ers receiving awards.
Cielo Meza was named Pitcher of the Year, Naomi Hernandez was named Freshman Player of the Year, and Kim Sowder shared Coach of the Year honors.
Meza, the reigning Freshman Pitcher of the Year, led the Big West in all major pitching categories with 22 wins, 217 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA. The sophomore had a .141 opposing batting average, and delivered a pair of no-hitters this season.
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Hernandez is the third 49er to receive the Freshman of the Year award. Hernandez led the Big West with a .388 batting average, 71 hits, 18 doubles, 47 runs and 36 RBIs with four home runs. She set the single-game record with five hits this season.
Sophomore Taylor Rowland and junior Nichole Fry made the first-team list with Meza and Hernandez. Rowland leads the Big West with 58 RBIs, and Fry hit .372 with 51 runs and 39 RBIs.
Jessica Flores, Lauren MacLeod, Grayce Majam and pitcher Devyn Magnett all received honorable mentions. It is Sowder’s third conference coach of the year award. time in her 12 seasons at the helm. This year’s record is the sixth best in program history.
Meza and Rowland were both chosen for First-Team NFCA All-Region, and Hernandez made the second team. It is the first time since 2004 that three 49ers made All-Region.
LBSU second baseman Majam and sophomore Alyssa Gonzalez both transferred from Ole Miss, so there is already some familiarity between the two programs starting the Tempe Regional.
Hear about that story line and much more by listening to our interview with Sowder…
We start with checking in with Andy about the Men’s Volleyball National Championship and what he’s been up to, and then Kim Sowder comes by to preview Long Beach State softball’s trip to the NCAA Regionals this weekend in Tempe.