After finishing a tough 2019 season with an overall record of 11-40, Cal Poly Softball is hoping to bounce back from its shortcomings in hopes of a successful 2020 campaign. The Mustangs were picked to finish seventh in the Big West Conference’s preseason coaches poll. Cal Poly’s season begins with three games in five days at the Stacey Winsberg Memorial Tournament Feb. 7-9 at UCLA. 

“I’d love to see this team buy into themselves and each other and exceed all expectations,” head coach Jenny Condon said.

Condon said a heavy focus on work ethic is the biggest difference between last year’s team and the 2020 roster. Cal Poly has been putting in countless hours of extra work throughout the offseason in preparation for the 2020 schedule, according to Condon, who is in her 15th season as head coach.

The Mustangs will have 12 letter-winners returning from last spring’s squad. Among the team’s returners are senior pitcher Steffi Best, who threw 153 innings last year, and senior first baseman Hailey Martin, who hit a team-leading .275 in 2019. Cal Poly is hoping that its experience around the diamond will help propel the team to the next level.

“The juniors and seniors have really taken charge and taken ownership of the team,” Condon said. “They’ve set great examples on how they show up and prepare for the underclassmen.”

Along with the 12 returning Mustangs, the team has brought on five freshman players who will look to contribute on and off the field. The freshmen, although not having any college experience, are ready to make an immediate impact for the program.

“[The freshmen] are scrappy and competitive,” Condon said. “They want to see themselves in the lineup.”

The mix of freshmen and upperclassmen on the roster provides a unique dynamic for the team as it heads into the upcoming season. When asked about the freshmen class, Martin said the newcomers bring “so much life and energy to the team.”

“As upperclassmen, we are teaching the freshmen new things,” Martin said. “But they’re also teaching us upperclassmen new things.”

Along with having more experience and a higher work ethic, the Mustangs have also built a strong bond between every class, according to Martin.

“This team has really clicked,” Best said. “We try to find time outside of softball because knowing that you have teammates on and off the field is a great support system.”

Among those Condon expects to make a significant impact for Cal Poly this season are Best, Martin, sophomore catcher Lily Amos and junior outfielder Noellah Ramos.

“[Best] did a great job in the circle last year and we look for her to continue to do that,” Condon said. “Offensively, Martin and Amos have swung the bat consistently and we look for them to do that again. Ramos has done a great job in the outfield and offensively we hope she’s going to be a spark plug.”

The Mustangs have been tacked with a highly competitive schedule for the 2020 season, including ten opponents who qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and both squads that played in last year’s Women’s College World Series. However, Condon said the team is more focussed on themselves rather than their opponents.

“If we focus on one game and one pitch at a time while playing the way we know how, we won’t need to worry about the team in the other dugout,” Condon said. “We’re going to prepare for every team the same way.”

When asked about her goals for the year, Best responded simply — “I want to win.”

“Our one team goal is to reach the postseason and win a Big West Championship,” Martin said. “Our senior class wants to leave a legacy that will last for years and years and we know that leaving with a Big West Championship ring on our finger really would put a stamp on that.”

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