Humboldt State University softball team enters the 2019 season looking to bounce back after a disappointing 20-26 record that led them to miss the post-season for the first time in five years.
In 2017, the Jacks went 44-15, winning their conference tournament and reaching the NCAA championship round but failed to move on as they placed fifth, getting defeated by Molloy College. The year before that they saw even better numbers as HSU went undefeated in conference play and were one game shy of a national title. On the team there are three all-Americans, eight named all-conference and head coach Shelli Sarchett, named league coach of the year.
With 2018 behind them, Humboldt State softball looks to prove they still have what it takes to get back to the top.
“Last year was rough, we graduated our whole infield and pitching staff. At times we played six to seven freshman, and of course, this is difficult because game experience is so important,” head coach Sarchett said. “Part of success for us this season is to make the NCAA tournament but our goal every year at Humboldt State is to win a national championship, it’s been this way for 30 years.”
The uncertainty of the pitching staff will be a factor in how the 2019 season will play out. Jasmine Hill started 15 games with a 4.68 earned run average or ERA, as the only upper-class pitcher on the roster. There are four incoming freshmen and sophomore leader Lexee Sheiring, who struck out a team-high of 47 batters. Sheiring’s 10-9 record with a 4.51 ERA may improve with the extra year on the mound, as the young staff will try and continue to grow and make an impact on the season.
The confidence this season is behind the big bats of HSU. Third base Rylie Carlier returns for her senior season. Leading the team in on-base plus slugging, home runs and second in batting average with a .337. Michaela Harris suits up as catcher, bringing her second team all-CCAA honors and a team-leading 27 runs batted in or RBI into 2019.
“Up and down our lineup they do damage to the ball,” coach Sarchett said. “Always confident on our hitting, we hit and make things happen on the bases.”
Tough off-season two-a-days mean adjusting the body to the season schedule and ironing out team play. HSU works through drills including positional fielding and base-running strategy. These practices help the team communicate confidently with one another. Young voices get a chance to be heard and talent gets a chance to show they can make the right decisions against the opposition. These drills help coach Sarchett show scenarios the team might encounter during the season.
“Out here working hard, being hard on each other, and holding ourselves accountable,” coach Sarchett said. “We’re gelling as a family and sacrificing the me for the we.”
In the outfield, the Jacks are returning two starters from 2018, two seniors Hanna Holland and Illa Haley. Holland hits a career average of .354 and 76 RBI. Holland also brings her experience to the defense with a solid .951 fielding percentage. For Haley, her ability to get on base last year with a .438 and a .308 average was good enough to earn her second on the team in OB% in 2018. Holland and Haley are co-captains this season bringing the triple threat of bats, fielding, and experience with 311 games between the both of them.
“Being captain is a big deal and there’s a lot of responsibilities, there’s 30 of us,” Holland said. “Illa and I are like two peas in a pod and we’re going to be locked in out there.”
HSU opens the 2019 season on Friday, Feb. 1 with the Desert Stinger Tournament in Las Vegas. The tournament will be a great chance to see highly ranked teams outside of the CCAA like Colorado Christian University, who is number eight in the west region Central Washington and southwest central region Colorado Christian University.
“Road trips can be brutal especially getting home at 2 in the morning sometimes, but our team clicks this year and our chemistry helps during tournaments,” Haley said. “My goal is to enjoy the season, this is my last and I want to go out having fun with my girls.”