After its improbable Big West Championship the Long Beach State softball team had its season ended in the NCAA Tournament last weekend at UCLA. The Beach lost to No. 2 UCLA 8-0 in the first game on Friday night, and then lost to Minnesota 11-0 on Saturday. It was the 25th NCAA Tournament appearance for LBSU.
The Beach also made history and racked up awards last week. LBSU (30-11) finished the shortened season by setting a school record by hitting .320 collectively. That beats the .306 mark set in 2014 and 2018.
LBSU Coach Kim Sowder was also named Big West Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her career. Additionally, senior Kellie White was named the Big West Pitcher of the Year and fellow pitcher Shannon Haddad became the fifth player in school history to be named the Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year.
LBSU also had four players named to the NFCA All-West Region, the most ever in a single season for the Beach.
Alyssa Gonzalez was named to the second team as a first baseman after after being ranked in the Top 50 nationally in batting average all season. She hit .409 to break the school record of .407 held by Melanie Muniz. Gonzalez didn’t strike out during the 24 games of conference play.
White earned third-team honors after finishing the regular season with a 1.94 ERA and a 16-6 record with 116 strikeouts.
Junior Naomi Hernandez is a second-time All-West honoree for the Beach. She was second in the Big West in both walks and on-base percentage, batting .400 and reaching base at a 50 percent rate.
Transfer Suzy Brookshire was the final honoree for the Beach after she started every game at third base. Batting .417 on the year, Brookshire led LBSU with 10 home runs and 49 RBI, and ranked in the Top 10 nationally in RBI per game.
The Dirtbags (24-15, 22-14) won their third consecutive Big West series last weekend at Cal State Fullerton thanks to a three-run ninth inning in the final game on Sunday.
LBSU is third in the conference standings with one weekend left in the regular season. The Dirtbags will host UC Davis at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. Both Friday and Sunday’s games will be broadcast on ESPN3.
Sophomore Chase Luttrell led the Dirtbags with a slash line of .438/.550/.938 including two home runs, seven runs scored, and four RBI against the Titans.
Friday night pitcher Johnathan Lavallee improved to 7-1 on the season as the right-hander totaled eight strikeouts in six-plus innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk. He has allowed just two runs in 21 innings across his last three starts.
“He just gets better and better every week,” Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela said. “When you go though those wars with good teams… when you’re battle tested that helps. I’m proud of him.”
Lavallee recorded five strikeouts through the first 2.2 innings on Friday, giving him 30 K’s since his last walk. That streak is the longest by a Dirtbag since Darren McCaughan also recorded 30-straight back in 2017.
Valenzuela said two weeks ago that he thinks his team has a chance to be in the running for an NCAA at-large bid.
“We don’t know what the NCAA Committee is going to do,” Valenzuela said. “Is it just going to go off RPI? Are they going to look at teams like us and the Big 10 different? If we finish second, if we go on a run these last couple weeks… and they look at the at-large teams and they look at ours, how could they not (take us) because to me we’re an NCAA Regional caliber team, 100 percent.”
LBSU’s season came to an end on the final day of the NCAA Cle Elum Regional last week as the Beach placed 12th with a 30-over par showing. LBSU was led by senior and Big West Golfer of the Year Hunter Epson who finished in the top 10 with a 2-under par.
The Beach managed to shave two stroke off of its game in the final round by shooting a 296 for 12-over on the third day of the tournament to finish with an 882 (+30).
Epson, a Wilson High alum, shot a 67 for 4-under par in the final round as he birdied seven holes. With his strong showing in the final round, Epson finished in a tie for ninth place with a 2-under par performance.