Cal Poly Softball kicked off its season over the weekend of Feb. 10-12 with the Central Coast Classic, where they took three of four games, opening up a schedule that includes 26 home games.
This hot start and some changes to the roster have given the Mustangs a lot to look forward to this season.
“I am excited to see the team play,” head coach Jenny Condon said. “This team is like no team we’ve had in the last many years.”
The squad went 19-29 last season, but a combination of off-season work and new bats in the lineup could contribute to more success in 2023. There are five freshmen on the roster, and according to Condon, freshmen Kiara Blanchard and Mylina Garza will provide some power for the team.
“We lost a lot of offensive production with losing seniors from last year’s team, but we anticipate [Blanchard and Garza] to come in and swing the stick for us,” Condon said.
While freshman may provide some new pop, sophomore outfielder Jessica Clements is entering her second season for the team and is sure to contribute as a returning member.
Last season, Clements made the NFCA All-West Region third team, was named the Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Big West first team. Her .396 batting average was good for 59th out of all NCAA Division-I hitters and sixth in Cal Poly’s program history.
While Clements will look to repeat this individual success, her main focus is on winning this season.
“It isn’t about the recognition, it’s about playing and winning our games and supporting teammates and wanting the best for everyone,” Clements said. “I am so honored and am still working towards reaching these high honors again.”
Making the move from right field to center field this season, Clements sees this as an opportunity to be the leader in the outfield and to contribute to an already-strong team culture.
“We are tightly knit, we’re sisters,” Clements said. “We get along really well, we make each other laugh, we pick each other up, even people competing for positions. Everyone is in it, supporting each other, and wanting what’s best for the team.”
On the pitching side of it, sophomore righthander Paige Maier is coming off a season that netted her a spot on the Big West All-Freshman Team. Last year, she finished with a record of 6-3 and will look to improve under a new pitching coach.
“We have a new pitching coach this season, so I am excited to see how the team does,” Maier said.
This new pitching coach is Brie Galicinao, who joined the staff in July 2022 after serving as the head coach at Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara for 15 years, where she was named Big West Coach of the Year twice.
With a blend of new faces on the coaching staff, freshmen contributors and returning leaders in the form of Clements, Maier, Juju Sargent, Kai Barrett and Xiara Diaz, among others, the Mustangs are primed for Big West play this season.
“I am looking forward to how we come out and compete,” Condon said. “If we do the things we are capable of and take care of the ball in the circle and defensively, I think good things will happen for us.”
In fact, Clements and the team see this year as an opportunity to compete with the best in the conference, including defending champion Cal State Fullerton.
“Fullerton [is who I’m looking forward to facing]… We got swept by them last year and they think it’s going to be an easy series for them, but we are ready to take them and we want a ring,” Clements said.
The Mustangs will look to build on their 3-1 start in a doubleheader against Idaho State on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Bob Janssen Field. Conference play, meanwhile, will open up on Saturday, March 18 in a home weekend series against CSU Northridge.