Softball eager to begin season

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Dixie State University softball isn’t allowing getting picked to finish second in the Pacific West Conference stop the team from pursuing its fourth PacWest championship in five years.

The Trailblazers fell just short of winning the PacWest last season after losing their first two games in the West Regional Tournament. The team went 35-15 on the season and tied for second in the PacWest behind Azusa Pacific University. 

Three Trailblazer players were named to the All-West Region Team for Division II in the 2015-16 season. Two of these players are returning this year: Outfielder Janessa Bassett, a junior biology major from Stansbury Park, who is also a two-time all-American, and catcher Jessica Gonzalez, a sophomore general studies major from Kingsburg, California.

Head coach Randy Simkins said Bassett and Gonzalez are two players to watch this year along with outfielder Kenzie Sawyer, a junior biology major from Cedar City, who had 50 home runs in two years at her previous school Western Nebraska University.

“We might be as deep hitting as we ever have been,” Simkins said. “We have a lot of kids that can hit. In some of the years past, our bench hasn’t been as strong, but we have a lot of bottom-lineup players who are really good.”

Simkins said one of the team’s main goals is to get hits at key times. He said even though the team led the PacWest in overall team batting average, it didn’t get the timely hits in regionals it needed. He said the team’s other main goal is to make it further than it did last year, and catcher Arista Honey, a senior finance major from Bothell, Washington, said her sights are set on nationals.

“We have some strong pitchers in our lineup and our pitching goes back pretty deep now,”  Honey said. “We made it to regionals last year, but our goal is definitely nationals this year.”

Pitcher Brooklyn Beardshear, a senior exercise science major from Tucson, Arizona, said one of her personal goals is to dominate. She said the team’s strength this year is power hitting.

“We’ve had a lot of people step up this year,” Beardshear said. “I think and hope that we will do really good this season.”

Beardshear is stepping up to become the Trailblazers ace this year. Last year, her overall pitching record was 12-4 with a 2.30 ERA. She has been with the Trailblazers since her freshman year.

The Trailblazers’ softball season starts as they take on Northwest Nazarene University at home Thursday at 3 p.m., and they will play again at home against Montana State University Billings Monday.