Hot In the Desert: Wildcats Open Season At 4-1
The Wildcats placed third overall out of 24 teams at the MSUB Desert Stinger with a 4-1 record.
The Wildcats placed third overall out of 24 teams at the MSUB Desert Stinger with a 4-1 record.

Monday, February 8, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore.  – Coming out of the first weekend of the softball season, Central Washington finished the MSUB Desert Stinger with a 4-1 record. The Wildcats earned the GNAC’s Red Lion Team of the Week award with a third place finish at the 24 team tournament in Las Vegas.

“We were cautiously optimistic going down there (to Las Vegas),” said head coach Mike Larabee. “I really feel our players have worked really hard and I thought our preparation was great.  Of course, without seeing any grass or dirt, it was a little bit of a concern.  I was very pleased with our effort.  We were a couple feet from going 5-0.  I thought we pitched very well and we got some timely hits.” 

The Wildcats began the tournament with two wins on the opening day, defeating two ranked opponents in No. 21 Regis, 5-3, and No. 25 Cal State Monterey Bay, 7-3. Central Washington’s lone loss of the tournament came in game three against eventual tournament champions Concordia Irvine. The Wildcats took the came to the wire, falling 7-3 in extra innings. They bounced back with a 4-2 victory over Hawaii Hilo and closed the tournament with a 5-4 win over Cal State San Bernardino.

Pitcher Kiana Wood led Central Washington, finishing with a 2-0 record and 1.59 earned run average in three starts. She appeared in all five games and pitched 22 innings. Pitcher Brielle Copodonna threw the remaining 14 innings for the Wildcats, ending with a 1-1 record and 3.50 ERA.

“I thought (Wood) pitched phenomenal,” Larabee said. “If you look at the box score, you notice we don’t get a lot of strikeouts, so our defense is extremely important.  Her location is absolutely spot on most of the time, she got a bit tired at the end of the tournament and elevated a little.  We try to pound it into our pitchers' heads ‘location, location, location’ and she competed very well.”

First baseman Kailyn Campbell led the Wildcats offensively, hitting .389 with six runs scored, six runs batted in and one home run. Against Hawaii Hilo, Campbell hit a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning to give Central Washington its first lead of the game. Catcher Austin Wilkerson finished with a .353 average, four RBI and three doubles.

“We never really talked about going there and going 5-0,” Larabee said. “What we talked about, what we always talk about, is two things and the first is being excellent.  We have the talent in the program to run with anyone in the country and I believe that.  If we pitch excellent, run bases, stay excellent at the plate, and play excellent defense we will put ourselves in a good position to win.  Another thing is we never really talk about the other team.  There’s nothing that we haven’t prepared for that we can’t defend.  We just need to be excellent and play our game.”

The Wildcats entered the season picked fifth in the GNAC preseason coaches poll after placing fifth in the 2015 regular season.

Central Washington returns to action on a California road trip this week. They start in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, taking on Academy of Art in a doubleheader. They follow that up with doubleheaders against Dominican and Notre Dame De Namur.