BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Softball became the latest Cal State Bakersfield sport to play its inaugural Western Athletic Conference game on Friday, but unlike most CSUB coaches, Crissy Buck-Ziegler said she isn't putting added emphasis on the WAC regular season.
"I don't think it's a brand new season," Buck-Ziegler said after the Roadrunners lost 4-1 to Utah Valley at the CSUB Softball Complex. "I think that's how we looked at it today. 'It starts fresh. It starts new.'
"(But) It doesn't."
"You have to learn from what you've learned from the past. You have to implement that and we didn't today."
The Roadrunners (9-26-1) have certainly had to overcome some obstacles this season.
In the fourth inning of their season-opener on Feb. 7, senior shortstop Shay Fryer went down with a knee injury. Fryer was in uniform Friday with a large brace on her left leg. She ran some sprints but did not play.
"We're hoping to have her back next week," Buck-Ziegler said.
The team has been without projected second base starter Adrianna Cardoza all season because of a season-ending knee injury prior to the opener.
CSUB is fortunate the WAC lacks a powerhouse team. Only two teams are at or above .500 -- barely -- with the other four well below .500.
New Mexico State (17-15) and Grand Canyon (15-15) are the most successful teams thus far. CSUB is joined by other sub-.500 teams Seattle (11-20), Kansas City (10-20) and Utah Valley (now 8-19 after Friday's win).
Grand Canyon, because it's in transition from NCAA Division II membership to D-I, is ineligible for the WAC Tournament in Seattle that will determine the league's qualifier into the NCAA Tournament. That leaves the other five members vying for the berth into the NCAAs.
"Every team is very scrappy," Buck-Ziegler said. "Every team has some very good hitters and has some very good defenses. It's who shows up on a given day, and that was apparent today."
On Friday, CSUB had four errors, which led to three unearned runs. Losing pitcher Kelsie Monroe allowed five hits and one walk with four strikeouts in a seven-inning complete game. She retired nine of the last 10 batters she faced.
Monroe got a break when an apparent two-run home run by Utah Valley's Brianna Gatlin was ruled a no-pitch when baserunner Morgan Summers was called out for leaving second base too early to end the fourth inning.
CSUB scored its run two batters into the game.
Karissa Veiga drew a leadoff walk and scored on Sydney Raeber's double to the left-center field fence.
CSUB, which tied 10-10 in its last game Wednesday vs. Cal State Fullerton in a game called because of darkness, displayed very little offense after that.
Buck-Ziegler said the Roadrunners have improved over time this season despite Friday's performance.
"We're a lot more further along than we were in Game 1," she said. "We're playing a lot more as a team and that's the upsetting thing about today: (The Roadrunners) did not play as a team in watching them perform.
"A lot of it may have to do with the first game in the WAC, but I'm trying to teach them every game is just as important. We'll figure it out for (today)."
The Roadrunners host the Wolverines today in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.