Feb. 5, 2013
By Theresa Kurtz
By Theresa Kurtz
FRESNO, Calif. The Fresno State softball begins a new era in 2013 with a new coaching staff and a new conference. Trisha Ford was hired as the next head coach of the Bulldog softball program to continue the legacy of the nation's second-winningest program of all-time. Another change for the Bulldogs this season is their first year as member of the Mountain West Conference.
Even with changes and new faces, the Bulldog softball program maintains the same goals of winning conference championships and making a run into the post season.
"We are very excited about playing in the Mountain West and look forward to the many battles on the diamond," said Ford of the Bulldogs first season in the MW. "The conference brings a high level of competition that we are preparing hard for."
The Bulldogs demanding and competitive non-conference schedule will prepare them for the conference season. The non-conference match ups, which include eight teams that appeared in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, will test the `Dogs early, but help gear up a run for a conference title in 2013.
"Playing against NCAA tournament teams only prepares you for the postseason," Ford said. "It is something that we have traditionally scheduled and will continue to do so. Being battle tested is a quality that all winning teams have."
Fresno State returns a total of 13 Bulldogs from last year's roster, including top offensive performers Brenna Moss, Stesha Brazil and Brooke Ortiz. Ortiz, Brazil and Moss recorded the three best batting averages in 2012 and were among the best statistically for the `Dogs.
Also returning in 2013 is Vonnie Martin, who College Sports Madness named to its preseason All-MW second team. Martin earned a spot on the WAC All-Tournament team after blasting three home runs in five games at the 2012 tournament. CSM also named the `Dogs among the top 44 softball teams in 2013 and the best in the Mountain West.
"It is always great to get preseason recognition, especially heading into a new conference," said Ford "We can't let the hype distract us from our team goals of taking it one game at a time and competing for a MW Championship. We are excited to get on the diamond and start the season."
Ford also added eight new Bulldogs to the roster for the upcoming season, which includes two transfers and six freshmen. The `Dogs will look to Hannah Harris, Jillian Compton and Whitney Smith to make an impact early in the season.
The Bulldogs return four to the outfield, while two newcomers will compete for a spot in the lineup.
"We have some depth in the outfield that will be very beneficial throughout the season," Ford said of her outfielders. "There are some players that bring a bit more of an offensive threat to our lineup and some that bring a stronger defensive skill set."
Among those returning to the outfield are 2012 starters Moss and Michelle Solomon. Moss started 58-of-59 games in center field with a .298 batting average and a conference best 198 at-bats. She was tied for 13th in the nation with five triples.
"Brenna Moss is a very skilled outfielder that has all the tools to be a very special player. She is someone that brings stability not only to our outfield, but also to our offense," said Ford. "Michelle Solomon is another player that carries a big stick. We look forward to her anchoring the middle of our lineup."
Solomon made 36 starts as a freshman and hit .229 on the year. She had 12 of her 22 hits for extra bases with eight doubles and four home runs. Solomon also scored 16 runs and drove in 18.
The Bulldog infield has five familiar faces in 2013 and one new face that will be looking for playing time.
"Although we are young on the dirt, we have a lot of experienced players," said Ford of the infield. "There is still a lot of movement and options that we are working through."
Three Bulldogs return to the infield, who all started over 50 games in 2012. Ortiz started every game at second base in 2012. She led the team for the second-straight year with a .312 batting average. Last year, the junior connected for six doubles and four triples, which tied for the second-most in the WAC and ranked 27th nationally.
"Brooke is someone that we will look to as the leader of our infield. She plays the game with a great passion and her work ethic is second to none," Ford said. "Stesha is another player that we are very fortunate to have in a Bulldog uniform. She is very versatile and could see work at both corner positions."
Brazil ranked second on the team with her .304 batting average, 32 runs scored and 55 hits. She tied for third in the conference with 14 doubles in 2012 and tied for second in the WAC and 27th nationally with four triples.
Maria Sio was the only freshman out of eight in 2012 to play and start in all 59 games, making every start at shortstop. She hit .281 on the year scoring 20 runs and drove in 17. Sio connected for six doubles.
The Bulldogs lost their top two starters on the mound, Michelle Moses and Mackenzie Oakes, in 2012 to graduation. The `Dogs will look to some young returners and newcomers to step on to the mound and take control in 2013.
"We are very young and will look to utilize all our pitchers for this season," said Ford of the 2013 pitching staff. "There has been great growth this fall with our staff and I expect that to continue. The talent is there, but we will have a large learning curve when it comes to game experience."
Compton was named MVP pitcher and Most Outstanding Senior Athlete in her league in 2012. She pitched two perfect games throughout her high school career and recorded 764 strikeouts.
Harris was named first-team all-league all four years of high school. She earned first-team All-CIF honors the past three years and was twice named league MVP. Harris finished her high school career with 645 strikeouts in 634 innings and 32 shut outs.
Also on the mound, the Bulldogs have returner Destinee' Levesque. She made six relief appearances in the circle in 2012 and drew one start. She posted a 1-0 record on the year and a 5.06 ERA. Levesque finished the year with 12 walks and five strikeouts in 18.0 innings pitched.
The Bulldogs lost starting catcher Kaitlin Griffin to graduation after the 2012 season. The `Dogs have two returning student-athletes and a freshman who will be vying for a spot in the lineup.
"This is another position that we are very young at, but freshman Paige Gumz has stepped up to the challenge," Ford said. "Taylor Green and Caitlin Neal are also vying for playing time and could see significant time throughout the year."
Paige Gumz earned first-team All-Sierra League and third-team All-Valley as a senior. Sophomore Taylor appeared in nine games hitting .222, Caitlin Neal and transfer Kimberly Fisher will also be competing for time behind the plate.
The Bulldogs top three offensive threats are back in 2012. Moss, Ortiz and Brazil will anchor the Fresno State offense. The combination of veteran bats and newcomers will provide a balanced and aggressive attack.
"I am excited about our balance in the lineup of speed and power," said Ford of her offense. "We are looking to be an aggressive team that puts pressure on the defense."
Kelly Megee is one that Ford will look to as a designated player this season. She appeared in 10 games and was 2-for-10 on the year with two RBI in 2012.
"There are several players that we will utilize throughout the season for some offensive pop," Ford said of the designated players. "Kelly Megee is someone that we are going to look at early in the season and see what she does with her opportunities. This is a difficult position that takes a lot of mental preparation and focus to be consistently successful at. Vonnie Martin and Taylor Green are among those players that are DP possibilities."
Martin was named to the 2012 All-WAC second-team and was selected to the WAC All-Tournament team after hitting three home runs in five games at the tournament. She batted .287 on the year with 20 runs scored and 19 driven in. Offensively, Green finished the 2012 season 2-for-9 with three RBI and walks. She made two starts last year as a freshman.
The Bulldogs open the season with the Fresno State Kick Off Tournament on Feb. 8-10 featuring the Bulldogs, UTEP, UC Riverside, Southern Miss, UC Davis and Sacramento State. It is the first of two tournaments the `Dogs will host in Bulldog Diamond.
The `Dogs host their second tournament of the season, the Fresno State Classic on March 7-10. The Fresno State Classic will feature Iowa State, San Diego State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal and St. Mary's. Cal, Oregon and Oregon State all competed in the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
"It is such a great opportunity to be able to host tournaments early in the season," Ford said. "We are looking forward to some of the best teams coming out to compete. The Fresno State Classic is an exciting tournament that will feature several post season teams."
Fresno State begins its first season in the Mountain West on March 28 with a three game series against Nevada at home. The Bulldogs also host conference opponents Boise State and New Mexico for three game series in Bulldog Diamond.
"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" -- Bulldog softball opens the season with the Fresno State Kickoff Tournament Feb. 8-10 at Bulldog Diamond. Catch all the action on 790 ESPN, home Bulldog softball. Stay connected with the Bulldogs on Facebook (fresnostateathletics) and Twitter (@FSAthletics).
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