A new year brings new challenges for Dixie State University softball as Karl Brooks Field will feature its last year of Pacific West Conference play.
As the season begins, the Trailblazers were picked to finish second in the PacWest in the preseason coaches’ poll and were ranked ninth for all of Division II in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll.
“There’s going to be a target on our backs this year,” said catcher Jessica Gonzalez, a junior business administration major from Kingsburg, California. “A lot of teams are going to want to beat us because we are ranked pretty high”
DSU features three players voted to the preseason All-PacWest team: outfielder Janessa Bassett, a senior biology major from Stansbury Park; second baseman Bailey Griffin, a junior general studies major from Glendale, Arizona; and catcher Gonzalez. Bassett was named preseason player of the year for the PacWest as she enters her senior season at DSU. Bassett has led the team in batting average and stolen bases in each of her previous three seasons.
After last season, DSU lost five starters from the team, giving new players the opportunity to step up and earn a starting job. Bassett said the biggest loss the team had in losing players was experience on the infield. She said she is using her experience to bring the new players up to speed on what the team does to work together toward winning.
“One thing we are focusing on is unifying our team because we have so many new people and will have so many new starters,” Bassett said. “We are trying to find a way to make everyone comfortable.”
In order to do well this season, head coach Randy Simkins said the team will have to pitch well. He believes the team’s strength is its ability to hit throughout the lineup and having five pitchers who all have the ability to beat good teams.
“We feel like we are going to have a very good chance to compete for a conference championship,” Simkins said. “But we are going to have to play well because there are a lot of really good teams in our conference.”
Some key stretches for DSU along the season include two four-game homestands, the first with 2016 PacWest champion Azusa Pacific University on March 28-29 and the other a meeting with defending conference champions California Baptist University on April 13-14.
DSU started the season with two victories over Northwest Nazarene University on Feb. 1, sweeping the doubleheader with a 13-5 win in the first game and 7-0 shutout in the second game.