Softball preview: CSU has high hopes for 2014 season

Easton Fastpitch All-America selection Ashlie Ortega is one of seven seniors on this year's roster.

Easton Fastpitch All-America selection Ashlie Ortega is one of seven seniors on this year's roster.

Jan. 31, 2014

Schedule | Roster

After back-to-back second-place finishes in the Mountain West, Head Coach Jen Fisher and the Colorado State Rams have their sights set high for the 2014 softball season.

“There’s a bitter taste, being one game out two years in a row.” Fisher said. “I think they’re really hungry, especially with so many seniors.”

The Rams return 12 letterwinners – including eight starters – from last year’s lineup, and should compete to be one of the top offensive teams in the Mountain West. In all, CSU will bring back 81.1 percent of its runs scored from last year, 94.2 percent of its home runs, 89.2 percent of its RBI total and 85.8 percent of its total bases.

Leading the veteran group – made up of six seniors and five juniors – is 2013 Easton Fastpitch All-American Ashlie Ortega. The senior from Brighton, Colo., led the Rams in batting average, hits, runs, doubles, RBI, total bases and slugging in 2013.

The Rams have the explosive offense to compete for a conference title, but they’ll have to replace two-time all-conference pitcher Kacie McCarthy, who is now a member of the Rams’ coaching staff, as a student-assistant.

Returning pitchers Molly Randle and Holly Reinke will look to fill the gap, in addition to a pair of newcomers in sophomore transfer Kaitlyn Crawford and freshman Larisa Petakoff. During her four-year career at Calvary Chapel High School in Downey, Calif., Petakoff went 67-9 with a 0.70 ERA, winning four conference championships and a state title.

“We have a lot of confidence in Molly, and Holly is a talented pitcher who is a year older and hungry,” Fisher said. “We’re also excited about Larisa; we’ll need all of them to fill Kacie’s shoes.”

Fisher says the biggest key to success, however, is on defense.

“We lost so many close games last year, that we’re really focused on playing errorless ball,” she said. “We want to do that for our pitching staff.”

Wherever Fisher has coached, she has developed success. In 13 seasons, she has led her teams to 542 victories, nine conference titles and a trip to the 2010 NCAA Division II Women’s College World Series. That year, she was named the NCAA Division II Coach of the Year, and in 2012, she earned Mountain West Coach of the Year honors after a 21-win improvement from her first season in Fort Collins.

Fisher has planted the foundation for success at CSU. Now she’s looking to get over the hump and take the next step.

“Softball can be a very simple game,” said Fisher, a 1997 graduate of CSU. “If you pitch well and play defense, you can be in every game, which is what we’ve done the past couple of years. We’ve been in the games with some of the best teams, but now it’s time to win those games.”

The Rams’ 56-game schedule was strategically prepared to make the team stronger, as CSU will play six teams that competed in last year’s NCAA tournament. Included in the mix is Tennessee, the preseason No. 1 team in the country, and San Diego State and San José State of the Mountain West.

In addition to the Rams’ 12 home conference games, they will host local rival Northern Colorado, a three-game series vs. UTEP and the Colorado State Classic, featuring Dayton, Nebraska-Omaha and Southern Utah. The 2014 season begins Friday, Feb. 7, in Tempe, Ariz.


 

 

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