(Adam Maldonado / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton has announced that five of its softball seniors will be returning to the team in 2021 after last season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pitcher Sophie Frost, catcher Julia Valenzuela, outfielder Kelsie Whitmore, infielder Zoe Richard and utility player Irie Siofele will be the group of seniors that will return to play at Anderson Family Field next season. 

Because of the canceled season, the NCAA is allowing spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility. The NCAA gives all student-athletes a five-year clock to play in college sports, meaning that the seniors are granted a sixth-year option.

There were a total of seven seniors on the Titans’ team in 2020. Pitcher Trish Parks and utility player Ari Bruns will not be returning to the program. With five seniors coming back to the team, CSUF will have ten seniors on the roster next season.

The returners will bring back veteran experience to the team. As with the exception of Frost, the seniors played in all 24 games the Titans had.

Despite not appearing in every game, Frost became the clear ace of the team, appearing in 17 games with 11 starts. Frost went 4-3 on the year with a 4.01 ERA, which included one complete game and two saves. She also led the team in innings pitched with 68 and 55 strikeouts, which was fourth in the Big West, and was named the conference’s pitcher of the week for the final week of the season.

Richard highlights the position players returning as she had the best batting average out of the group with .338, which was second on the team behind freshman Megan Delgadillo. Richard led the team with four home runs, 20 RBIs, five doubles, 41 total bases and nine extra-base hits and a .577 slugging percentage. 

Siofele, Whitmore and Valenzuela were all players who hit home runs last season, and in addition to Richard’s ability to produce at the plate, they are very reliable out in the field. 

Despite allowing 17 steals behind the plate, Valenzuela caught nine runners trying to steal, giving her a .346 success rate. Richard, Siofele and Whitmore also had a perfect fielding percentage on the year, with Valenzuela not far off with a .993.

The seniors will attempt to bring CSUF its fifth straight Big West title, something no other Big West team has done since Fresno State from 1988-92. The team will look to make their first Super Regional since 2007 and first Women’s College World Series appearance since 1995.

Before the 2020 season was cut short, CSUF finished 14-10, as their final game was a home loss against No. 22 University of Central Florida. Despite ending on a loss, the Titans beat the Knights four days earlier at the UCLA/LBSU Invitational, and had wins over ranked teams in Arizona State, Texas Tech and Minnesota.

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