The Fresno State Bulldogs celebrate a 1-0 victory over UNLV on Apr. 27, 2014. The ‘Dogs return to action Friday at the ASU Kajikawa Classic. (Katie Eleneke/The Collegian)
Last season, the Fresno State softball team finished second in the Mountain West, a couple of losses late in the season giving rival San Diego State the crown.
This year, the ‘Dogs were picked to finish in first place in the Mountain West preseason poll. With that honor, improvement is on head coach Trisha Ford’s mind.
“It’s preseason,” Ford said. “Our goal every year is to win the Mountain West Championship. I know we can do it, so we have to take care of the things we can control.”
The Bulldogs will begin their season on Friday, when they play in the Arizona State Kajikawa Classic, first against Fordham and then Portland State. It is the beginning of a five-game slate that will see the ‘Dogs face Ole Miss, Cal State Northridge and University of San Diego.
“For us to continue to develop as a strong road team is going to be huge for us,” Ford said. “We talked about it last year, the importance of winning on the road.
“We improved greatly from Year 1 to Year 2, and I look forward to us improving again.”
The ‘Dogs boast a veteran team that Ford says has learned from its mistakes and gained more confidence.
“Our pitchers are all juniors now, so we have gone through those bumps,” Ford said. “They’re ready to take it up to the next level.”
Ford also looks to use her incoming freshmen and transfers, a group she said will work cohesively.
“When you have kids in your program who have gone to the postseason before –they know what it feels and smells like – and you add that with fresh talent, that combination is really cool,” Ford said.
Junior pitcher Jill Compton, who was named to the All-Mountain West first team last season was also named preseason Pitcher of the Year by College Sports Madness. She finished her sophomore season 19-9 with a 2.18 ERA, eight shutouts and 154 strikeouts in 166.1 innings pitched.
“Since [Ford] is a pitching coach, I see a different side of her,” Compton said. “She is very positive with us. She works with us individually. I like how she’s very positive with the team, and she really helps us out.”
Brenna Moss was named the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year and started all 52 games last season. The center fielder is ranked 18th in the country in stolen bases and finished the 2014 season with 34.
Sophomore outfielder Kierra Willis was named to the all-conference second team after playing in 49 games last year. She led the team in on-base percentage, was second in stolen bases and third in batting (.307).
“I think your freshman year is really hard,” Ford said. “It’s kind of like [the coaches] are talking in a foreign language that [the players] have never heard. This year, Willis has been able to make some adjustments in hitting and fielding, because it is starting to click.”
With the majority of the team as upperclassmen – which is when players start to click, Ford said – the Bulldogs have confidence in their ability to succeed this season. And it all starts with practice.
“My goal is to win the Mountain West Championship,” Ford said. “And we control our own destiny.”