There was one word that seemed to bounce around the Fresno State softball team’s practice, its derivatives and all: excitement.
And it could be safe to say that this excitement is perpetuated by anticipation of what the Bulldogs haven’t had to experience in a long time: new beginnings.
They’re not necessarily a new team — though with two seniors, younger than the last’s. They are a team with a new coach (the program’s first in more than 27 years and fourth in its history) in a new conference.
The Bulldogs enter their inaugural season in the Mountain West Conference under first-year coach Trisha Ford, who was a nine-year assistant coach at Stanford. She succeeds Margie Wright, who retired last season after 27 years with the program.
And when Ford was first introduced to the team, there was excitement.
“One thing I noticed is she had enthusiasm,” infielder Brooke Ortiz said. “She was fired up and ready to go. She didn’t want to waste any time talking. That really made us more comfortable, having her excitement… she was connected with us.”
One of the fresh starts Fresno State has this season comes in the postseason. In 2012, Fresno State went 36-23, but lost in the WAC Tournament Championship game to BYU – missing out on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and on the postseason entirely.
Up until that point, Fresno State had qualified for every single NCAA Tournament — the only team to do so.
In Ford’s nine years at Stanford, the Cardinal reached six Super Regionals.
“That’s one of the things that we stress as players that we wanted in a coach – to know that how far we’ve come and how much we want to expand on that,” outfielder Diane Runge said. “Our goals are definite: win the Mountain West and get past Regionals.”
Fresno State opens the 2013 on Feb. 8 at Bulldog Diamond against Texas-El Paso – the Bulldogs’ first game of the Fresno State Kick-Off, a seven-game, six-day home tournament.
The Fresno State Kick-Off will be the team’s first measuring stick, Ford said.
“We’re going to see how different lineups play, what pitching rotations work well together. We’re going to try and see what our best pieces are.”
Fresno State opens conference play on March 28 at home against Nevada.
“Right now, I would say we’re trying to build a solid foundation,” Ford said.
“We’re trying to take care of conference, get back to Regionals, get through Super Regionals, but absolutely, I would not have taken this job if I didn’t think we could win a national championship.”