Despite a late push on an RBI single by sophomore Kim Westlund, which scored Nora Sobczak in the fifth inning, Cal Poly softball (13-36, 5-16) fell 2-1 to UC Riverside (25-28, 8-13).
The windy Saturday marked senior night for Sobczak and Nicole Lund as they made their final appearances at Bob Janssen field. With numbers “28” and “8” chalked behind second base, the two took the field along with their teammates to finish the 2011-12 softball season.
“It’s been absolutely incredible,” Sobczak said. “Being able to come together and put our whole effort out there even tough things weren’t going our way was the biggest thing for us this season.”
Lund went 1 for 3, while Sobczak was walked twice, scoring a run.
“It’s always different losing two people,” Westlund said. “They were great leaders. (Sobczak) was kind of like our mom on the team, anytime we needed something we could go to her, and (Lund) was that person who, whenever you were having a bad day, you could go to her for a smile.”
The two ended their careers at Cal Poly with their families and friends in the stands supporting them.
“They’ve been great representatives of our program,” head coach Jenny Condon said. “They’ve left their mark and taught the underclassmen what it is to be a Mustang softball player. It’ll be sad, but I’m happy they went out on a positive note.”
Cal Poly ended the season in last place of the Big West Conference, but an extra-inning 6-5 win over Riverside in the first game of the series left the team with some positivity to end the year.
On Saturday, the Highlanders scored in the first on an RBI single by Jessica Vasser and added on their lead with Jojo Mendoza’s solo-home run to start off the fourth.
The loss marks the end of a down year for Cal Poly softball, which faced much adversity in a myriad of injuries and losses. Despite this, the team looks to rebound with a strong 2012-13 season. Westlund, who led the team in batting average (.322), hits (48), RBIs (25) and slugging percentage (.436), looks to stop the bleeding and help the struggling offense.
“The best thing we have coming back is our youth,” Condon said. “We had freshman and sophomores playing every single game. They have one to two seasons under their belt, and the experience they’ve gotten will only make them better.”
Strong defensive performances by shortstop Celina Lafrades and second basemen Ashley Romano, who turned three double plays in the loss, prime Cal Poly as a candidate for the strongest defense in the Big West next season.
“Defensively, we were good all year long,” Condon said. “Our defense was the most solid part of our game.”
Alongside Lafrades and Romano, center fielder Whitley Gerhart looks to captain the outfield with a strong arm and a .965 fielding percentage. Gerhart’s .258 overall batting average was overshadowed by a .322 average during Big West play.
Pitching next year remains a question mark for Cal Poly after the injury of Rebecca Patton. Patton was second among Big West Conference pitchers in starts (30), fourth in strikeouts (107) and seventh in innings pitched (175.2) during the 2011 season and earned Big West Pitcher of the Week honors. Despite these strong statistics, Patton was forced to the sidelines with an injury this season throwing only 66 innings.
In place of Patton, freshmen Jordan Yates and Chloe Wurst have traded starting duties. Wurst threw 132 innings with a 4.76 ERA, while Yates displayed earned a similar 5.09 ERA on 121 innings pitched.
“We’ll have five seniors,” Westlund said. “Our juniors will be a big part too. All of us had starting positions the past two years. We all have experience and the poise to perform too. We need to learn to love the game again.”