The Cal State Bakersfield softball team that’s headed to the same NCAA regional as Fresno State has a Fresno-area flair: Six of the 18 players are from the central San Joaquin Valley, led by senior pitcher Amber Mills out of Clovis West High.
The Roadrunners (16-32), relishing their stunning victory in the Western Athletic Conference tournament over the weekend that earned the school its first NCAA Tournament appearance in Division I softball, will face UCLA (35-13-1) at 6 p.m. Friday at the double-elimination UCLA Regional. Fresno State (41-10-1) and Cal State Fullerton (43-14) are the other two teams headed to UCLA.
“My first games when I was a freshman were at UCLA, so it’s like going back home,” said senior Sydney Raeber (Hanford High), who pitches and plays outfield.
The outfield walls at Easton Stadium are emblazoned with reminders of UCLA’s 11 NCAA championships, but Raeber says her team won’t be intimidated.
“We’re not looking at the name across their chest,” Raeber said. “We’re going to go out and play our game and we’re going to play and compete like we did this past weekend. Yes, they have a great record, but that doesn’t mean anything to us.”
Mills, who went 3-0 in the WAC tournament, including two wins against top-seeded New Mexico State, said it’s been a special season.
“It’s unreal and it’s a great feeling,” Mills said. “I’m still shaking right now. It’s amazing to see that all the hard work we’ve put together is finally coming through for us.”
CSUB has the fewest wins of any of the 64 teams in the tournament and is one of only four teams with a losing record.
“This was a crazy year,” CSUB fifth-year coach Crissy Buck-Ziegler said. “Our seniors had a mission, and the mission was getting back to the WAC tournament and winning it.
“That was their focus all year. Hopefully they won’t settle for that, that they’ll say there was a reason we went to the WAC tournament to go to this regional and really compete against all of these wonderful teams.”
Buck-Ziegler is a 2002 UCLA graduate who played on the Bruins’ 1999 national championship team.
Jeff Evans of The Bakersfield Californian contributed to this report.
Cal State Bakersfield softball players from the central San Joaquin Valley:
Kaylynn Burt: sophomore outfielder, Central High
Maddi Clark: sophomore infielder, Clovis West High
Amber Mills: senior pitcher/outfielder, Clovis West High
Briana Pontecorvo: senior infielder/outfielder, Hanford West High
Sydney Raeber: senior outfielder/pitcher, Hanford High
Makenzie Zinger: senior catcher/infielder, Redwood High
Others in the tournament
Adele Leuma: Cal State Fullerton freshman pitcher/outfielder, Hanford West High
Jilee Schanda: Boston University infielder/outfielder, Central High
Laura Berg: Oregon State fourth-year coach is a former Fresno State All-American
UCLA REGIONAL SCHEDULE
- Friday: Game 1 - 3 p.m. Fresno State vs. Cal State Fullerton; Game 2 - 6 p.m. UCLA vs. Cal State Bakersfield
- Saturday: Game 3 - noon, Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner; Game 4 - 3 p.m., Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser; Game 5 - 6 p.m., Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner
- Sunday: Game 6 - noon, Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner; Game 7 - 3 p.m., Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary)