JARYD CLINE, staff reporter
After winning 12 of their last 15 games, the Central Washington University softball team (12-11 overall, 10-6 Great American Northwest Conference) are looking to build off their strong start to league play.
Central will be competing at the Tournament of Champions, which will be held in Turlock, Calif. Competition begins on April 5 and ends April 7.
The Wildcats have competed in the Tournament of Champions for over ten years, but have found it hard to succeed, managing just 21 wins and coming away with 40 losses at the tournament.
Despite the losing record, Central has found some success in recent years. The Wildcats have combined to go 12-10 the last three years while even reaching the championship game in 2010, losing to Sonoma State 11-1.
Central hopes to make it to the postseason when Great Northwest Athletic Conference play comes to an end. The tournament could be an excellent way to assess the Wildcat’s chances.
“Our expectations are always the same, make playoffs,” head coach Mallory Holtman said. “Right now we’re just one game at a time and we want to keep this going.”
The Wildcats have been on a rampage recently, winning eight home games in a row before losing to Simon Fraser last Saturday.
“I think we have a strong mentality going in and I think we’re playing really well right now,” Holtman said.
During their recent hot streak, the Wildcats have been efficient with the bats as well as showing solid pitching outings by their staff.
Throughout their last 12 home games, the Wildcats have scored more than six runs per game while only giving up three to their opponents. Central’s pitching staff also threw four shutouts during that streak.
There’s no doubt the Wildcats are ready for the upcoming tournament. Many of the returning players from last season know what it takes to come back from California successful.
“Just go in and do what we’ve been doing, being aggressive at the plate and being solid in the field,” senior catcher Cassi Ellis said. “And just keep improving on what we’ve already improved on.”
Junior second baseman Jill McDaniels has led the charge for the Wildcats at the plate this season. McDaniels is hitting .365 and leads the team and the GNAC in homeruns. She is also third in the conference in RBI’s, with 31 on the season.
Freshman outfielder Michaela Hazlett is hitting .397 and leads the team with nine stolen bases, while Ellis is hitting .394 with five doubles on the year.
Leading the Wildcat pitching staff is junior pitcher Maria Gau. Gau paces the Wildcats with a 6-6 record and her 2.26 earned run average. Gau currently ranks third in the GNAC in strikeouts, 67, and opponent batting average, .230, while ranking second in shutouts with three on the season.
Second on the Wildcat’s pitching rotation is sophomore pitcher Heidy Wells. Wells ranks second on the Wildcats in wins and strikeouts, with her 4-3 record and 27 strikeouts.
Twenty-six teams will compete in the Tournament of Champions, including all of the teams from the GNAC.
The Cal State Monterey Bay Otters are the reigning champions and will look to defend their title.
“California’s always a tough tournament,” Gau said. “It’s really important that we continue to do what we’ve been doing the last few series and continue to play hard.”