It seemed like a regular gameday at Anderson Family Field on Thursday morning. Following routine batting practice before their matchup against Boston University in the Easton Invitational, the CSUF softball team met with head coach Kelly Ford in their typical back room prior to first pitch.
Rather than having a pre-game pep talk, a somber cloud transpired among the group as it was revealed to the team by Athletic Director Jim Donovan that the current season would be suspended and eventually canceled due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This team was on a mission … That was frustrating. It was frustrating to end on a note that we all knew we were just hitting our stride,” Ford said.
The sudden cancellation of Big West conference and non-conference competition for the 2020 season brought the end to CSUF’s campaign for a fifth straight Big West conference championship.
“We made a tough schedule for a purpose. I think each and every player knew a little bit of the target on our back,” Ford said.
The Titans were slated to host the Easton Invitational starting last Wednesday until Sunday, but with the turn of events through the disruption of the coronavirus, the tournament was cut short.
Fullerton began the tournament in a rematch against the UCF on Wednesday, and lost to the Knights, 7-0, in what they did not know would be their last game before the season’s cancellation.
Harvard, which was scheduled to play the CSUF on Saturday, did not make the trip out west after the Ivy League barred competition for their spring sports on Wednesday.
A little more than a month after the start of the season, the Titans posted a 14-10 record and recently finished off a weekend where they accomplished upsets against Minnesota and UCF in the Louisville Slugger Invitational.
Before the season’s conclusion, Sophie Frost was hitting her stride from the circle as the senior pitcher was named Big West pitcher of the week for her performance during the Louisville Slugger Invitational. She struck out 20 batters while recording a 0.00 ERA throughout the weekend.
Megan Delgadillo was a standout performer throughout the shortened season for the Titans, as the freshman outfielder was efficiently batting primarily from the leadoff spot with a .408 batting average to go along with 16 stolen bases.
She was also named Big West player of the week twice during the season after posting impressive numbers in both the Titan Classic and the Judi Garman Classic that were each hosted at CSUF.
“That kid plays like an upperclassman, she’s seasoned. The pressure or the big games don’t mean anything to her. She just gets out there to compete every pitch,” Ford said. “She’s a force, and I expect her to rewrite the record books offensively at Cal State Fullerton.”
The sudden news comes with much to be figured out in the near future, but while on hiatus, players on the team were instructed on ways to maintain their competitive edge and stay on top of their work academically. Weekly Zoom sessions with the team are also in the works, which would allow players and coaches to continue to communicate while away from campus.
“We tried to just give the girls as much information as possible,” Ford said. “We may not be able to practice and may not be able to get on the softball field, but we’re not stopping, making sure our athletes have everything they need.”
As for seniors who were expecting to graduate, the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year of eligibility leaves even more questions to be answered amidst an uncertain situation.
“Every athlete’s got so many questions and all we could say is ‘Hey, we got to wait and see.’ And that’s hard to give them an answer like that, especially seniors, trying to make lifelong career plans and decisions,” Ford said.
Despite being unable to step on the field, Ford said she hopes to continue leading the players through their untimely offseason, alluding to the bond the team shares as a source of strength and guidance as they collectively adjust through the sporadic changes.
“All I can do is keep coaching these young women and I may not be coaching them right now in softball, but life and how to handle this unfortunate situation,” Ford said. “We can all handle it, we just need to stick together as a team, stay strong and help each other.”