softball 4/18

Alexa Neil rounds first base after hitting a single to left field against UC Davis on April 16 at Anderson Family Field. (Rosemary Montalvo / Daily Titan)

Heading into the final 14 games of the regular season, Cal State Fullerton’s softball team weathered a tough non-conference schedule and has found its footing tied atop the Big West Conference standings with Long Beach State.

The Titans have two remaining non-conference games on the regular season slate with the penultimate matchup on April 19 against the Loyola Marymount Lions.

Fullerton is 12-3 in conference play and 27-15 overall this season. The Titans won two of three over the weekend against UC San Diego and have won 12 of their last 15 games.

Led by second-year head coach and Olympic Gold Medalist Tairia Flowers, the Lions have had a comparable season, posting a 5-1 record in conference play, 28-13 overall and sitting atop the West Coast Conference standings.

With 28 wins, the Lions have surpassed their 2021 total of 22 wins and have shown significant improvement since their last game against the Titans. This matchup could pose a test for a Fullerton team that hasn’t won a non-conference game since the March 11 3-2 win over Sacramento State.

Loyola boasts a potent offense with a team batting average of .309 and On-base Plus Slugging of .840. As a team, they have also hit 29 home runs, two more than CSUF. The Lions have five players with at least 90 at-bats with a batting average over .320 and are led by infielder Georgia Blair, who is slashing an astounding .408/.487/.694 and an On-base Plus Slugging of 1.181 in 98 at-bats. Blair has also driven 24 RBIs, hit a team-high six home runs and walked 15 times.

On the basepaths, Lions freshman outfielder Sydney Poole has been dangerous, stealing 19 bases on 22 attempts.

Keeping such a potent offense at bay will provide a challenge for a Titans pitching staff coming off back-to-back shutouts over San Diego.

Fullerton has a team ERA of 3.34 and has relied heavily on the pitching duo of Myka Sutherlin and Raci Miranda. Sutherlin, who had a no-hitter earlier this season, has a 2.42 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 107 innings of work. Miranda has a 3.20 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. The Titans will likely need to rely on one of, if not both, pitchers to shut down a Lion offense that is on a five-game winning streak and has scored eight or more runs three times in that span.

Loyola also has a strong pitching staff with a sub-3.00 ERA, led by right-handed pitcher outfielder Jenna Perez. Perez has a 1.50 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 111.2 innings pitched and holds opponents to a .140 batting average.

While Fullerton has been able to spread out the lineup on any given gameday, infielder Daisy Munoz is notably entering the game with a hot bat. Munoz is 4-8 with four RBIs in her last two games.

The two teams met three times in 2021, with Fullerton winning all three. The last meeting between the Titans and the Lions was a 9-0 Fullerton home win on March 7, 2021.

The lone matchup this season between these two teams will start at 5 p.m. at Smith Field.

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