Ryan Chartrand

When the Cal Poly softball team opens its season today, it could have its deepest pitching staff in years.

The Mustangs will put that belief to the test when they begin the inaugural round-robin Mustang Classic with a nonconference home doubleheader against 16th-ranked Washington at 3 p.m. today at Bob Janssen Field.

“They’re all so different how they throw,” Cal Poly assistant coach Claire Sua said Monday at a weekly athletics department press conference. “Depending on who we’re playing, we can always bring in somebody with a different look. Adding a lefty to our lineup is a huge asset to us. We’re really deep in our pitching staff.”

The left-hander Sua referred to is touted freshman Helen Pena, the team’s likely No. 3 starter. Also in the mix are right-handers Robyn Kontra (junior), Jenna Maiden (sophomore) and Emily Hively (senior), Sua said.

The Mustang Classic runs today through Sunday, with Cal Poly also playing a doubleheader against Sacramento State at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Mustangs then wrap up the tournament against Santa Clara at noon Sunday.

Sua said opening the season against the Huskies could benefit the team in the long run.

“I think it gives us a sense of urgency,” she said. “We start with a ranked team and have no time to rest. Starting things off super intense against one of the best teams in the country will help us keep up our level of play throughout the season. For us to bring in a team that’s ranked within the top 20, that’s always a plus for us.”

Cal Poly returns 14 players from a team that finished 27-23 overall and third at 13-7 in the Big West Conference last season. The Mustangs were picked to finish second in the Big West preseason coaches poll released Jan. 24.

Sua said Cal Poly could receive a lift from starting this season at home, as opposed to last season when it opened on the road to a 5-14 start.

“I think it’s a huge boost for us,” Sua said. “Any time you start off your season and want to hit the ground running, you always want to start off at home. It’s where the girls are comfortable, where they practice every single day. It’s a huge morale boost to everyone involved.”

Cal Poly, however, plays its next 25 games after this weekend away from home.

Editor’s Note: A complete preview of the Cal Poly softball team’s 2007 season ran in the Mustang Daily on Jan. 24. It can still be viewed at www.mustangdaily.net.

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