May 20, 2011
LOBO SOFTBALL 2011 SEASON REVIEW
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In evaluating her New Mexico Lobos' season of 2011 - Erica Beach's first as a head coach - you have to forgive her, and praise her, for applying the expectations and the standards of her roots to Lobo softball.
Beach's roots are Arizona State, Pac-10, NCAA World Series - and winning. She brings the same expectations to University of New Mexico softball, which makes her a bit edgy as the NCAA postseason begins and her Lobos are on the outside looking in.
"We had a good year. But the expectations for the future are higher than what was achieved on the field this year," said Beach, a former All-American at ASU. "I'm impatient and want to see that growth right away, but I'm also realistic. I understand this program is at the stage where it was important this season to take the necessary steps to make that continued growth a reality.
"We saw that growth in stats, in our mentality on the field, in our energy and willingness to compete. It was important to be more successful this year, but it also was important to take this program to a higher starting point to take us into next year."
Beach's Lobos of 2011 made strides in the win column, but more important were the strides in competitiveness -- the drive to compete. The Lobos stumbled into the 2011 season off a previous campaign in which they had unbelievably lost 23 of their final 24 games.
Sure, there were fundamental and technical changes that had to be made in every aspect of the game. But this also was a Lobo team with a shattered psyche. The burst of energy, the passion and the knowledge that came from Beach and her dynamic staff - Lyndsey Angus and Christi Musser - were exactly the shot in the arm these battered Lobos needed.
These young Lobos of 2011 - no seniors! - didn't always wow you on the scoreboard, but they rolled up their sleeves and went toe-to-toe with their opponents when it came to a willingness to fight.
"The attitude these girls carried into practice and into games was amazing," said Beach. "That change in mentality was also key to our growth and key to the improvement we saw across the board. I think the girls learned to appreciate the game again and reinvested emotionally into what they were willing to bring to the game."
Of course, the No. 1 stamp of improvement comes on the scoreboard and on the field. Here are a few forward strides to note:
The individual improvement on the field also brought individual honors to Lobo players. Junior catcher/utility player Jessica Garcia was named to the All-West Region Second Team by Louisville Slugger and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Garcia's stats made an impressive jump from 2010 to 2011. She hit a single home run in her first two seasons as a Lobo, but tied the school mark with 13 in 2011. She led the Lobos in batting with a .418 average, which was good for the No. 2 spot in the Mountain West. She was Top Ten in the MWC in batting (.418 - 2nd), slugging percentage (.801 - 1st), on-base percentage (.446 - 7th), hits (61-- 3rd), RBIs (37 - 8th), doubles (15 - 1st), home runs (13 - 2nd) and total bases (117 - 1st).
The Lobos also had two players get hot in MWC play and slip past Garcia for All-Mountain West honors, which are based on league games only. UNM's Danielle Castro and Stefanie Carramusa were named to the 2011 All-MWC Team.
Castro led UNM in hitting in league play with a .455 batting average. She had a team-high 20 hits in MWC games. She pounded three home runs in league play, including the game-winner against BYU in UNM's home finale. She hit .376 on the season.
Carramusa hit .356 in Mountain West play with six home runs in league games. She also anchored UNM's infield at the shortstop position where she had a .967 fielding percentage with only two errors. She hit .300 on the season and chased Garcia all season for the home run lead, before pulling in with 11 dingers. She had a team-high 38 RBIs, to edge Garcia by one in that important category.
The Lobos also had Cassandra Kalapsa named to the Capital One Academic All-District team. The UNM sophomore carded a 3.97 grade point average in biology.
An important and much-needed stride for UNM came on the mound off the arms of Kaela DeBroeck and Kari Gutierrez. DeBroeck had a 6.21 ERA in 2010 and cut that down to 4.44 this past season. Gutierrez went from a 7.50 ERA to a 5.45 ERA.
UNM gave up 22 runs to the powerful Aggies in 2010, but NMSU was held to eight runs in their two-game split with UNM. The UNLV Rebs scored 23 runs against the 2010 Lobos, but UNLV scored only six this season. Another huge swing up was seen in UNM's sweep of CSU. The Lobos scored seven runs against CSU in 2010 and scored 45 in 2011.
The Lobos took a jump up in the conference standings to finish fifth ahead of Colorado State. The Lobos also lost a number of close games that could have moved them up even higher on the MWC list. Beach expects the lessons learned in 2011 will make a difference in 2012.
"There were some close games we should have pulled out, but there also is a growth and maturity factor in learning how to win those types of game," said Beach. "We're getting there.
"I think we could have gone .500 this year. Maybe it's a double-edged sword because there were some games we managed to pull out, and there were some games we should have won. I guess 19 wins was probably a good step, but it's not my nature to be satisfied with 19 wins."
The physical and statistical changes in the 2011 Lobos are easy to document. There are more wins and better stats for these growing Lobos. But probably the most dynamic change in the Beach Lobos of 2011 was in areas featuring intangible measures.
These Lobos of the diamond dug deep into unseen regions and came to play with passion, energy and new hope. They might have even reached beyond their basics talents to bring respectability and a promise of better things to come. That intangible growth is also something Beach plans to develop for 2012.
"Teams like BYU and San Diego State have a consistency we don't yet have," said Beach. "They know what it takes to win and they are used to doing what it takes to win.
"I think we were close enough in talent to be there, but it's tougher to change a mentality and get players to believe that they belong there, too. But we are getting closer."