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The Cal Poly softball team has had a hard-luck 2015 season and Saturday’s loss in the season finale at UC Riverside was no different.
The Mustangs worked hard to gain an early lead against an impressive Highlander team, but squandered it in the third inning to give UC Riverside the 3-2 victory.
Freshman third baseman Stephanie Heyward started the Mustangs off with a two run double to right center. Heyward has shown incredible promise in her first collegiate season at Cal Poly, leading the team in batting average (.318), slugging percentage (.439) and doubles (13). Heyward figures to play a major role in the Mustangs’ 2016 campaign.
In the third inning the Highlanders (39-17, 11-10 Big West Conference) took advantage of a couple Cal Poly errors to score three runs to take the lead. While errors have not necessarily been the problem with this year’s team, they were the deciding factor on Saturday.
Sophomore starting pitcher Sierra Hyland pitched well enough to deserve a win (6 IP, 1 ER) but like so many times this year the sophomore was not rewarded by her offense. Hyland’s ERA for the year (2.37) leads the team and her 233 strikeouts leads the Big West Conference by more than 40 Ks. And with all that Hyland’s record for the year stands at an abysmal 17-22.
Besides the two in the first, Cal Poly would fail to score a run for the rest of the game. The result on Saturday was only fitting for a peculiar 2015 season. The Mustangs (22-33, 5-16) started 2015 by winning three games at Arizona State’s Kajikawa Classic. It wasn’t scorching, but it was a solid start, especially after Hyland was named Big West Softball Pitcher of the Week.
Before conference play started in late March, the Mustangs were an even 16-16. A busy first part of the season was highlighted by non-conference victories over Stanford and Indiana, but Cal Poly struggled mightily in conference play, losing ten consecutive conference games to close out the season. While the Big West is certainly strong this year, Cal Poly’s performance in late season conference games could have been a sign of fatigue after a grueling early part of the season.
Hyland and Heyward, as well as sophomore rightfielder Courtney Tyler and senior leftfielder Emily Ceccacci led the offense for most of the year. Heyward was certainly the standout but Courtney Tyler also turned in an exceptional season. The sophomore was second to Heyward in batting average (.310) and led the team in hits (49).
In addition to pitching over 257 innings as Cal Poly’s main pitcher, Hyland led the team in home runs with five.
Ceccacci, in her final season, led the team with a .341 batting average in Big West games this year. Ceccacci’s 2014 batting average of .356 stands as the eleventh best single-season mark in program history.
This season may not have been the most memorable season in program history, but it may prove instrumental for the growth of an incredibly young team.
Of the 16 players on the roster, 13 are underclassmen and Ceccacci is the lone senior. Her leadoff hitting capabilities will be missed, but the future is still bright with the Cal Poly softball program.