#15 Haley Harris
#15 Haley Harris

Coming off a three-month hiatus, the UCR women’s softball team returns for the winter season for the Fresno State Kick-Off. After achieving their best season in the history of the program last fall with an overall record of 39-17 as well as earning their first winning record ever in Big West Conference play (11-10), the expectations for this year are high.

This past week’s tournament ended in a solid performance with the team managing a landslide victory over the Army at 11-3. With the team’s season in full swing and multiple tournaments just around the corner, let’s take a look at how the team will be stacking up this season.

The backbone of UCR’s success over the course of the 2015 season was the team’s outstanding statistical performance. The team managed to place seven of their players in the top individual leaderboards for a variety of different categories. They had pitcher Rebecca Faulkner, who managed to accrue 41 runs batted in (RBIs), putting her in fifth, with CSU Northridge’s Katie Hooper coming out on top in the category at 56 RBIs. Not only that, but Faulkner was number one in the category of saves with an astonishing eight throughout the season with fellow Highlander Tayler Misfeldt behind at four, who is also a Highlander. UCR dominated in this category as two out of the top five pitchers in this category were from Riverside. Keep in mind that both of these pitchers are sophomores and with two more years to develop their skills, it’s an exciting time to see them progress when they’re already performing at such a high and consistent level.

Another impressive player on the team last season was pitcher Chelsea Ponce. In terms of pitching, her excellent record speaks for itself as she posted the conference’s lowest earned run average (ERA) at 1.34, putting her far ahead of CSU Northridge’s Zoe Conley (1.84). Not only that, but Ponce had the most wins as well, at 30, with the next best player in the category being left behind at 20.

Within the team, Faulkner continued to impress as she dominated almost every category last season. Batting average: .332, slugging percentage: .566, on-base percentage: .411, the list goes on and on. And this is on top of her previously mentioned records of the season. This season, however, seems to be playing out a little different thus far as Madeline Richard has been leading the boards in almost every category for the team. Currently leading the team in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and a myriad of other categories, this outfielder has consistently delivered for the past 11 matches and is on pace to have a historical campaign if able to sustain this performance over the course of the year.

Despite such talented players and a consistent performance throughout 2015, UCR finished fifth in conference play overall with a .524 winning percentage. The most daunting teams on the leaderboard were CSU Northridge (.762), Long Beach State (.714) and Hawaii (.619), coming out as the top three teams respectively. Northridge seems to be one to look out for most as their players dominated 10 spots in the top players for individual category statistics with five out of the eight categories all containing at least two players. Specifically, the aforementioned Zoe Conley and pitcher Katie Hooper, with Hooper outperforming every other player in terms of RBIs (56) on the year.

If UCR wants to move up in the ranks this season, they need to improve in a variety of areas. In terms of slugging percentage, overall UCR had one of the lowest last season with a .378, putting the school sixth overall in the conference. Riverside isn’t a bad team by any means, as they sit in the middle of almost every category and with such a solid team.

Yet even with such a talented team, it’s dangerous to stay content considering the stiff competition this year, the RBIs have to improve, batting averages must go up and hitting in general must improve. And based on the statistics, defensively UCR is on par with the top schools in the conference, but if they plan on building upon their 2015 success, then it’s imperative that the team puts greater emphasis on hitting. Yet, as of now, it appears the team is on pace to a strong season.