After coming up just one win shy of a national championship two years in a row, the No. 2 Storm are ready to take the country by storm once again.
2014 and 2015 were both record-breaking years for the DSU softball team, and 2016 looks to be just as exciting.
The 2014 season resulted in a school-record 51 wins and a heartbreaking loss to West Texas A&M University in the national title game. Even after setting the bar so high, the Storm exceeded expectations and broke their own record with 52 wins and another title game appearance in the 2015 campaign.
The Storm were selected this year by coaches to repeat as Pacific West Conference champions and slated as the No. 2 team in the country behind University of North Georgia, the team that beat DSU 5-0 in the NCAA final last May.
Head coach Randy Simkins, however, said the team hasn’t accomplished everything it wanted to just yet.
“Our goal every year is to improve off of what we did in the past,” Simkins said. “The only way to really improve now would be to win a national championship. We can’t go in with that mindset, though. We have to take it one pitch at a time, and we’ll put ourselves in a good position in the end.”
The 2015 PacWest Coach of the Year has an exceptional chance to do exactly that as he returns numerous pivotal players from previous years.
DSU, along with being picked to win its fourth consecutive conference championship, return a conference leading four preseason All-PacWest selections.
Senior pitcher Aryn Feickert finished last season 20-5 with a 2.18 ERA and 146 strikeouts. Feickert is the only DSU player to ever throw a perfect game, and was named the Preseason PacWest Pitcher of the Year.
Sophomore outfielder Janessa Bassett was a first team All-American last year and was awarded with NFCA honors as the nation’s top freshman after batting an astounding .449 and holding down the Storm outfield. Even with all the individual accolades, Bassett said she’s only focused on the goals of the team.
“There’s always a little bit of pressure,” said Bassett, a biology major from Stansbury Park. “If anything, it serves as a reminder of how hard we worked for our achievements last year and how hard we have to work to just as well or better this year.”
Junior infielder Brooklyn Beardshear is coming off of a First Team All-PacWest season and repeated Bassett’s sentiments.
“We still have the expectation to be just as good or better than we were last year,” said Beardshear, an exercise science major from Tucson, Arizona. “We have a new team, and it will take a lot of hard work and team chemistry to get where we want to be.”
2015 third-teamer Mallory Paulson batted .301 on 47 hits and six home runs. Beardshear was formidable from the plate, matching Paulson’s six home runs and batting in 40 RBIs. The junior spent sparing time in the circle for the Storm in 2015, accumulating a 2.36 ERA, something she’s expected to do a lot more of this year.
The Storm lead off their season Friday as they welcome some of the top teams in the country to St. George. DSU begins season play against No. 13 Humboldt State and follow it up with a Saturday matchup against West Texas A&M, the 2014 national champs. In addition, the Storm will round out the season-opening home stand facing Colorado State University-Pueblo Sunday.