San Jose, Calif. – Preseason camp is complete and the roster has been set. Now all the 2016 San José State softball team needs are opponents to get the season started and this weekend they get just that.
The Spartans open the 2016 campaign at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday, February 11. The team plays six games over three days, including three against team which competed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and two which are ranked in the top-20.
“We could have set a softer preseason schedule,” Spartans head coach Peter Turner said. “We chose this one because I believe that, with the foundation this program is working with, we will be in a position to compete in the NCAA Tournament in May. We play for conference championships and our preseason schedule is designed to get us ready for league play. Our tournament schedule is important in that it provides a gauge to let us know where we are in terms of being ready for league action.”
The season starts on Thursday with match-ups against, BYU at 2:00 p.m. and then host (#22/#20) Arizona State at 7:00 p.m.
BYU finished last season 40-14, 13-2 in the WCC and competed in the NCAA Regional. The Cougars return their top hitter (Gordy Bravo - .444) as well as top pitcher McKenna Bull (34-9, 2.31 ERA). SJSU and BYU met last year in this tournament, with the Spartans coming away 9-8 winners.
ASU competed its 2015 season with a 36-22 overall record, 12-11 in the Pac-12 and competed in the NCAA Regional. The Sun Devils lost their top hitter (Amber Freeman - .436), but return their top pitcher Breanna Macha (18-13, 3.69 ERA). San José State and Arizona State met last year in the Judi Garman Classic. SJSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but lost 6-4 in the end.
The next day, Friday, February 12, the Spartans take on Boston College at 2:00 p.m., and Oregon State at 4:30 p.m.
Boston College finished last season 27-25, 6-16 in ACC play. The Eagles return their top hitter (Tatiana Cortez - .309) and top pitcher Allyson Frei (19-15, 2.75 ERA). In the only previous meeting between the Spartans and Boston College, in the 2008 National Invitational Softball Tournament, SJSU won 6-5.
Oregon State completed the 2015 season with a 26-26 record, 6-18 in the Pac-12. The Beavers lost their top hitter (Dani Gilmore - .360), but return Beverly Miller, their top pitcher, who was 15-13 with a 3.64 ERA. The last time the Spartans and Oregon State met was in the 2013 Kajikawa Classic and the Beavers edged SJSU 1-0.
On Saturday, San José State wraps up the weekend with a pair of games. It leads off against Virginia at 9:30 a.m. and then faces (#8/#9) Tennessee at noon.
Virginia was 16-40 overall last season, 4-20 in ACC play. The Cavilers return their top hitter (Kaitlin Fitzgerald - .360) but lost their top pitcher Andie Formby who was 8-17 with a 5.56 ERA. The last meeting between the Spartans and UVA was in the 2010 Judi Garman Classic. SJSU won the game 8-4.
Tennessee was 47-17 last season, 15-9 in the SEC. The Volunteers reached the Women’s College World Series last year. UT lost its top hitter (Tory Lewis - .331) from last year, but Rainey Gaffin (17-4, 2.17 ERA) is back. The last time the two teams met was in the 2009 Red Desert Classic and the Vols hammered the Spartans 16-0.
“In Tempe, I want to see how much we’ve learned since September 15 and how we implement and execute on the field,” Turner said. “We want to make our opponents earn everything they get and to give them nothing. If we do that, we will have a very, very good season.
“We are going to ASU to win, so part of whether it’s a successful weekend will be our won/loss record. The other part will be how we execute offensively, defensively and pitching. I’ll grade the team out and if we are at a “B” or higher that would be great. I know that it may not happen because it’s the first week, but that’s were we want to be.”
SPARTANS PICKED THIRD IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST PRESEASON POLL
On the precipice of the season, the Mountain West announced its preseason predicted order of finish. By a vote of the conference’s head coaches, the Spartans were chosen to finish in third place, behind Fresno State and San Diego State.
“Preseason teams and polls are selected to create momentum and hype,” Turner said. “But at this point, who knows what anyone has and what injuries they are dealing with? Who really knows who has improved and who hasn’t, etc. I don’t put a ton of stock in these things. I know how good we are and how good we can be, but we have to prove it on the field. We were chosen fifth last year and finished third, so it’s something to get people talking and nothing more.”
2016 MW Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
|Pl.||Team (1st place votes)||Pts|
|1||Fresno State (8)||64|
|2||San Diego State (1)||57|
|3||San José State||49|