Here is a look at the five opponents the Fresno State softball team will play in the Fresno State Kick-Off Tournament.
Last Season: (16-37, 3-21 Conference-USA)
Key Player: Tahla Wade, sophomore. The outfielder is the team’s top returning hitter, posting a .298 batting average in 39 games during her freshman campaign.
Update: The Miners graduated their top three hitters, including Camilla Carrera, who hit .447 with 32 home runs and 66 RBIs. Carrera and Chelsea Troupe combined to hit 51 of the team’s 62 runs. How are the Miners going to be able to replace that kind of power production?
Last Season: (25-28, 8-13 Big West Conference)
Key Player: Kayla White, senior. A 2012 All-Big West selection, White led the team in batting average (.329), slugging percentage (.551), runs (24), hits (55), RBIs (36), doubles (11), triples (4) and total bases (92).
Update: The Highlanders were voted to finish in eighth place in the Big West by a preseason coaches’ poll. Led by first-year head coach Linda Garza and a pair of preseason All-Conference selections — White and Alexis Pickett — the Highlanders will look to improve on their 25 wins last season, which was a Division I program record.
Last season: (13-34, 4-20 Conference-USA)
Key Player: Caroline Walker, sophomore. The shortstop led the team in hitting as a freshman. The C-USA Freshman of the Year posted a .336 batting average in 41 games and finished with 25 runs scored, 10 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs.
Update: The Golden Eagles struggled in conference play during the 2012 season and not much is expected of them in 2013, according to the conference coaches. Southern Miss was voted to finish in eighth place in the conference in a preseason poll, one position ahead of UTEP.
Last Season: (24-28, 14-7 Big West Conference)
Key Player: Justin Vela, sophomore. The Bakersfield product was named the Big West Pitcher of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year after posting a 20-13 overall record with a 2.10 earned run average. She had the ability to overpower hitters with 272 strikeouts in 203 innings of work.
Update: The Aggies finished the 2012 season with 14 conference wins and were one win shy of a second conference title in a three-year time span. With the returning pitcher of the year in the fold, it is expected the Aggies will once again be in contention for a conference title, though the preseason coaches poll have picked them to finish in fifth place.
Last Season: (27-19, 10-9 Big Sky Conference)
Key Player: Emily McCormick, senior. The third baseman was a Pacific Coast Softball Conference selection for the second straight season last year. She hit .340 with 20 runs scored, 10 doubles, five home runs and 31 RBIs.
Update: The Hornets make the move to the Big Sky this year after competing in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference last season. This is the first year the Big Sky Conference has sponsored softball. The Hornets were selected to finish second behind Portland State in the preseason coaches’ poll.