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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Softball gears up for 2014 season

Who to Watch:

It’s finally that time of year again. After an icy Fall Quarter and the first round of winter midterms now a thing of the past, the beginning of February means one thing: the long awaited start of UC Davis’ spring sports.

After months of preparation, the athletes that make up the UC Davis softball team are ready for their 2014 season. With four seniors, three juniors, 10 sophomores and eight freshmen coming into the year, the squad is a young one. Eighteen of the team’s 25 players are underclassmen and the Aggies are looking to introduce the Big West Conference to a new, young set of players ready to dominate on and off the diamond.

Looking back at the Aggies’ 2013 season, several players can be marked as threats for this year. Leading the team with a .308 batting average, along with a .349 slugging percentage in the 2013 season, sophomore Christa Castello looks to have another stellar year at shortstop.

Castello received multiple accolades after her freshman year, marking her as a force to be reckoned with this upcoming spring. In 2013, she was named to the All-Big West Conference Second Team, was sixth in the Big West in stolen bases and tied another Aggie for the longest hitting streak of the season at eight games. She also was the 105th toughest batter to strike out in the country. With one year of collegiate play now under her belt, Castello is expected to be a huge contributor for the team both offensively and defensively.

Another standout freshman from 2013 was Jasmine Lee, who finished the year with an overall batting average of .266 and .286 slugging percentage. Lee collected multiple accolades alongside Castello. She ranked as the 58th toughest batter to strike out in the nation and also led the Aggies with 10 multiple-hit games and held the fourth-highest batting average.

Finally, one cannot forget junior pitcher Justine Vela, who finished 2013 with an outstanding 2.03 ERA. Named to the All-Big West Conference First Team, Vela ended her sophomore season with six national rankings: 14th in hits allowed per seven innings, 35th in shutouts, 82nd in ERA, 84th in strikeouts per seven innings, 87th in strikeouts and 135th in victories. Within the Big West Conference alone, Vela led the league with a minuscule .177 opposing batting average and was third overall in both ERA (2.03) and strikeouts (175).  Now a seasoned veteran, Vela enters her junior season as an Aggie who is expected to lead the team both on the mound and in the dugout.

Preview:

With the team’s schedule released in mid-December, the athletes have a challenging set of games ahead. They will face 10 teams that competed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, two of which played in the women’s College World Series. However, the women are ready for the challenge.

“Our entire program cannot wait for the 2014 season to start,” said head coach Karen Yoder.

The Aggies start the year with the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. from Feb. 7 to Feb. 9, facing Arkansas, San Diego and Washington.

With another fresh slate in 2014, the team looks to start strong with three wins and carry that momentum throughout the spring.

— Sloan Boettcher

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