FULLERTON, Calif. - The Cal State Fullerton softball team opens its season on Friday hosting the So Cal Collegiate Tournament at Anderson Family Field and will face Purdue at 4:00 p.m. before welcoming Idaho State at 6:30 p.m. in day one of the three-day event. Head coach Kelly Ford heads into her third campaign at the helm after posting a 33-21-1 (13-8 Big West) record, leading the Titans to the 33-win mark for the first time since 2007.
FullertonTitans.com: Heading into your third-year as the head coach of the Titans, how has your comfort level changed since year one?
Kelly Ford: The first season was quite a whirlwind, trying to connect with the student-athletes while preparing for opening day. Last season, we made leaps in so many different ways, not only on the softball field, but all the student-athletes were able to get to know my entire coaching staff and me. This season I'm really able to feel like it's my program, and the strong connection is present and our comfort level is solid.
Having my staff really come together this year, I'm able to anticipate what's coming next as my experience continues to grow. Operations feel more natural and I'm getting more confident that I'm able to really put my stamp on the program. I'm in a position where I know more of what to expect and our student-athletes are aware of the expectations as well.
FT: The Titans have steadily improved from year to year and have been picked to finish second in the Big West behind reigning champs Long Beach State. What are your thoughts on being one of the top contenders to take the conference title?
KF: I think there's an overall excitement in the air about the softball program and being picked to finish second shows a lot of respect for both our student-athletes and the program. At the end of the day, we'll always look at it as just a poll, but the reason why we may have been given first-place votes to begin with may be based on the fact that we've truly made some waves. It's important to earn the respect by how we compete and represent ourselves on the softball field, and being in the discussion to be a top contender is a compliment to both our student-athletes and staff.
FT: You give some high praise to both your assistants Jorge Araujo and Claire Sua-Amundson. What impact have they had on the progression of the team?
KF: Jorge and Claire's value on our program is simply immeasurable. From their experience as student-athletes to their coaching experience, it makes everyone around them better including me. The discussions that we have as a coaching staff are a game changer. We don't agree on every subject, but it's that type of different perspective that really aide our collective mindset when exploring issues at various angles of the spectrum. Both coaches have a positive outlook on a daily basis and I couldn't ask for better character role models for our student-athletes.
FT: The 2015 schedule
is again among the nation's best. What are your thoughts on the strength of schedule?
KF: Hands down, the strength of schedule and in particular the various tournaments will prepare us for conference play. We've received votes to enter the top 25 in both the USA Softball and NFCA polls, and it's exciting for us to at least be in the conversation heading into the season. At the end of the day, it doesn't mean a thing, because what really matters is our production on the softball field. We will have the opportunity to compete against many of the teams in front of us in the polls, so it'll give us the opportunity to come up with some big wins and hopefully enter the top 25. We are looking to make leaps forward as far as strength of schedule and RPI, but it'll be up to us to come up with the wins.
FT: Cal State Fullerton will host four home events at Anderson Family Field, highlighted by one of the most premier softball tournaments in the country, the Judi Garman Classic. What are your thoughts on the tourney?
KF: First we look at three of the teams that made the Women's College World Series (No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Oregon, No. 11 Baylor), and if that's where we want to go, than we want those type of teams to be featured in our tournament. Then you've got a cluster of squads who went to Regionals and Super Regionals (No. 5 Florida State, No. 8 Michigan, No. 12 Arizona, No. 16 Arizona State, No. 19 Auburn, Iowa, Long Beach State and San Diego State). We have a great fan base and Anderson Family Field is a top-notch facility, so we're happy to host one of the most competitive tournaments in the nation.
FT: The pitching staff was riddled with injuries last year, but you return sophomore Christina Washington, who was given the nod on the All-Big West Freshman Team in 2014. What improvements do you seek from your pitching staff to reach the next level?
KF: I expect Christina (Washington) to be a force in the circle as she heads into the season mentally determined, while being in great physical shape. The movement on her ball is also impressive and she is primed for an outstanding season.
Jasmine (Antunez), who has been recognized as Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year in 2013, is in a more comfortable position heading into the 2015 campaign. She will be another powerful force in the circle as long as she is able to take it one pitch at a time. Jasmine has all the tools to be successful.
Our student-athletes have also had to adjust to several adjustments to our coaching staff, from April Frazier-Valdez who has put her stamp on our pitchers and had to unfortunately leave the team due to personal reasons to Claire (Sua-Amundson) taking over duties on an interim basis to now Matthew Johnson who has joined us with his own style of coaching. Although our pitching staff has had to overcome changes in instruction, I expect everyone to be focused on the task at hand once the season begins.
FT: Where do you turn to for leadership with such a young team and only one senior?
KF: One of the biggest differences from prior seasons to this year is the naming of captains. We've established this layer of leadership among a trio of student-athletes in our lone senior Eliza Crawford, along with juniors Missy Taukeiaho and Samantha Galarza. They have done a great job in aiding the mindset of everyone on the team in knowing their respective roles, and being aware of the importance of each and every one of them.
FT: After a busy fall, which freshmen do you see making an impact?
KF: Shianne Brannan is truly a specimen at the shortstop position and her range and athleticism is impressive. She's a smart and intelligent student-athlete with a good work ethic. She can handle the pressure and play as if she's an upper classman.
FT: What are some of your themes for the team this season?
KF: In order for us to be successful, we simply have to show up. If we have the present state of mind, we're going to walk away from every game satisfied. The difference from last year to this year is that we can be more focused while shrugging off any distractions. The commitment of our team to put in extra work on their own time has really impressed our coaching staff, another major difference from season's prior.
Cal State Fullerton softball tickets are now on sale for the 2015 campaign. Three types of items will be available, single game tickets, tournament packages or, the best deal, the season ticket that includes all regular-season tournaments along with individual games.
For details about all three ticket types, fans may click here. Tickets can be purchased online, in person at the Cal State Fullerton Athletics Office or by calling (657) 278-CSUF (2783) from the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Complete Information on tickets can be found here.
Always keep in mind that there are special opportunities for groups and promotional activities at Anderson Family Field (softball) and at Goodwin Field (baseball).
Bringing a group to take the field with the Titans? Participating in a pregame ceremony? Want a name put on a video board as a birthday wish? Check out the Group/Promotional Activity page. Plan ahead and make your reservations with Becca Dobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (657) 278-3842.
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