Stevens: New Mexico Softball 2014 Season Preview
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/04/2014

 LOBOS PICKED 8TH:  The New Mexico Lobos' softball team was picked to finish eighth by the league coaches behind two-time defending champion San Diego State in the nine-team Mountain West race.  Here is the projected order of finish in 2014: 1- SDSU. 2. Fresno State. 3. Boise State. 4 (tie). Colorado State, San Jose State. 6. Nevada. 7. UNLV. 8. New Mexico. 9. Utah State. 

 New Mexico Lobos Softball – 2014 Season Preview

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The demands that Lobo Coach Erica Beach throws at her 2014 Lobos are several things.  They are reasonable. They are a challenge. They are a push. They are what a coach should expect from a program in its fourth season. They also are demands that might require her young Lobos to reach and grasp things they have yet to reach and grasp.

What Beach really wants is a finish.

“I’m tired of fizzing in conference. I’m done not competing in conference,” said Beach. “It’s time we made some waves in conference and there is no reason we shouldn’t compete in conference. We need to be one of the top teams.”

The Beach Lobos have had more than their share of success at various points of a season.  They even roared into the Top 25 rankings in her second season behind one of the top hitting teams in the nation.   But the best way for a Mountain West team to reach the coveted College World Series is to grab the automatic bid that comes with the regular-season crown.

In 2014, if you go by Mountain West’s preseason poll, the Lobos have some climbing and some proving to do.  They were picked to finish eighth in a nine-team race with San Diego State a strong No. 1 and Fresno State the dark horse at No. 2.

Beach’s Lobos have struggled in league play. An injury-torn 21-35 season of 2013 produced a 3-15 Mountain mark.  The Lobos were 2-10 in 2012 (27-25 overall) after racing to a 17-2 start and reaching the Top 25 for the first time since the 1999 season. In Beach’s first season, her 2011 Lobos (19-26) went 5-10 in the MW race.  

“It’s time we did better,” said Beach.

A good plan for any program is to start the season with hard challenges, give yourself a chance to produce an eye-catching RPI, and maybe grab an NCAA at-large bid, if you don’t win the Mountain West title.  That’s part of Beach’s plan

Her Lobos open the season Thursday (Feb. 6) with No. 7 Arizona State at the prestigious Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State in Tempe.  The Lobos also play No. 24 California, Northwestern, UC Riverside and Portland State. None of these teams are cupcakes.

“We want to face ranked teams and challenge our team. I’m not afraid of the competition,” said Beach.  “I have a young team that is hungry and I don’t think they’ll be intimidated.  Let them see what it takes to play with the top teams and that also helps prepare you for conference.”

A tough schedule usually has long term benefits, but it also can take a bite out of a young program on the scoreboard and on the record.  UNM started 0-7 in 2013, rallied to win 11-of-13, but once the injury bug took a bite, Beach was scrambling all season just to field a team. Her infield of 2013 had three different starters – in all four positions.

Her Lobos start off 2014 reasonably healthy, but already the Lobos have a starting outfielder, a starting pitcher and a backup pitcher on the bench at the Kajikawa.  Softball is not a soft game.

“We have more talent and more depth this season, so that already is a plus,” said Beach.  “It’s an athletic and versatile group and our offense should be more versatile.  We have speed, but we have more power this year.”

The Lobos will begin the season with three established headline-type players in outfielder Mariah Rimmer, lefty pitcher Lauren Soles and senior second baseman Chelsea Anaya.  Anaya was heading toward an All-MW season in 2013 hitting .367 before breaking her collar bone. She played in 27 of UNM’s 56 games and never made it to conference play.

Rimmer is one of the more dynamic outfielders in college ball – anywhere.  She hit .346 and stole 26 bases on 34 attempts. She led the Lobos in runs scored (34), hits (63) and total bases (80). Soles is a pitcher with the speed to dominate from the plate. She led UNM with a 3.23 ERA in 2013, innings pitched (132.1), starts (23) strikeouts (105) and opposing batting average (.241).

Soles and Rimmer were named to the All-Mountain West preseason Second Team by College Sports Madness.

“Mariah will anchor the outfield,” said Beach. “She covers more ground out there than any outfielder I’ve ever seen.  She is a leader out there.”

The Lobo brought in a talented freshman outfielder from the fertile club ball fields of Arizona in Willow Kalinen, but Kalinen will miss a few early games with a minor injury. Brandi Heimburg, a JC transfer from Yavapai Community College (Ariz.), should battle for starting time along with freshman Shelbie Franc and Gabrielle Stacey, a transfer from College of Southern Idaho.

“We have a lot of new faces out there,” said Beach. “But this is the best our outfield has ever looked.”

The Lobos have some new faces in the infield, too – on the left side. The shortstop position should go to freshman Michala Erickson, another product of Arizona softball. “Michala is one of those players that that other players just automatically follow,” said Beach.  “She is a quiet leader.”

The hot corner – third base – appears to be locked down by Jasmine Casados from Albuquerque’s La Cueva High. Casados is a solid all-around athlete with some pop in her bat.  “She is a fire ball at third,” said Beach. “She catches everything that comes at her and she’ll bring some power to the plate for us.”

The right side of the infield will have Chelsea Anaya at second and Jordan Sjostrand – a former walk-on/team manager – back at first. “Chelsea hasn’t skipped a beat, She is ready,” said Beach. “Jordan will start at first, but that also is a position that could be determined by hitting.”

Beach has a number of players working behind Sjostrand including senior Ally Hakeem and sophomore transfer Karissa Haleman.

Sophomore Naomi Tellez, who led UNM in RBIs in 2013, returns behind the plate. Beach said the wear and tear of that position should turn the spot into split time between Tellez and Mia Hignojos, a talented, versatile athlete who also could see time in the infield. Nykilah Torres, a versatile athlete, gives Beach even more depth at that position as does Hakeem. Torres also can play the outfield for UNM. 

“Mia moved from short to catcher and she’ll get the start against Arizona State,” said Beach. “She has worked her rear off and she is good. She is quick behind the plate, moves well, and not much gets by her. I see her and Naomi sharing time and they are both good hitters.”

The Lobos lost Kaela DeBroeck from the circle, but return Soles, Carrie Sheehan and Lisa Rodrigues. UNM also adds Texas Tech transfer Tess McPherson, who also is coming off shoulder surgery and will be worked slowly into innings. Beach was McPherson’s pitching coach in club ball in Arizona. “She’ll get some innings when she gets stronger,” Beach said of McPherson.

Soles and Sheehan look to be the two starters, but Soles is coming off shoulder surgery and will be slowly worked into the lineup, probably on a pitch count.   “Lauren is a go-to pitcher,” said Beach. “She is a bulldog on the mound and can dominate. She is very competitive and has that edge to her.”

Beach said she is expecting a big year from the 5-foot-11 Sheehan, who struggled to an 6.03 ERA last year with only four starts. The Lobos' team ERA in 2013 was 4.33 and the opponents' was 2.55.  The 2013 Lobos scored 166 runs and allowed 282 runs to cross the UNM plate. 

“Carrie is throwing the best she’s ever thrown,” said Beach.  “She has turned into a different pitcher. Her pitches have never looked better.  She is hitting her spots and throwing with a lot of confidence. She will see some big innings this year.” Those big innings probably will start with No. 7 Arizona State and the Kajikawa field.

Beach has depth in the circle in 2014, but most of that depth is unproven – but improving.

 “Lisa (Rodrigues) struggled with consistency last year, but she has really improved,” said Beach. “Her confidence is better, she has great movement and she will screw some batters into the ground.  She has more trust in her pitches and we have more trust in her.

“We’re excited about this season.  This is the best team chemistry we’ve had since I’ve been here.  You can tell they care about each other and that team and teammate success is important to them.”

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune.  You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

New Mexico Lobo Softball -- 2014 Season Roster 

No. Sort by Number
Name Sort by Name
Pos. Sort by Position
Ht. Sort by Height
Yr. Sort by Eligibility Year
Exp. Sort by Years Experience
Hometown (Prev School)
1   Michala Erickson" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258093&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258093&Q_SEASON=2013">Michala Erickson INF R/R 5-3 Fr. HS Peoria, Ariz. (Sunrise Mountain HS)
3   Karissa Haleman" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077269&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077269&Q_SEASON=2013">Karissa Haleman INF/UTL R/R 5-5 RSo. TR Peoria, Ariz. (Sunrise Mountain HS)
4   Brandi Heimburg" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258495&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258495&Q_SEASON=2013">Brandi Heimburg OF L/L 5-3 Jr. TR Phoenix, Ariz. (Yavapai Community College)
6   Gabrielle Stacey" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258547&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258547&Q_SEASON=2013">Gabrielle Stacey INF/UTL L/R 5-0 Jr. TR Winslow, Ariz (Winslow HS)
7   Willow Kalinen" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258818&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258818&Q_SEASON=2013">Willow Kalinen OF L/R 5-8 Fr. HS Scottsdale, Ariz (Pinnacle HS)
9   Shelby Lucero INF/UTL R/R - Fr. HS Albuquerque, N.M. (La Cueva HS)
10   Carrie Sheehan" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077270&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077270&Q_SEASON=2013">Carrie Sheehan P R/R 5-11 Jr. 2L Las Vegas, Nev. (Cimarron-Memorial HS)
11   Mia Hignojos" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077266&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077266&Q_SEASON=2013">Mia Hignojos INF R/R 5-3 Jr. 2L Odessa, Texas (Odessa HS)
12   Mariah Rimmer" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077285&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077285&Q_SEASON=2013">Mariah Rimmer OF R/R 5-4 So. 1L Riverside, Calif. (Arlington HS)
13   Lauren Soles" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077280&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077280&Q_SEASON=2013">Lauren Soles P L/L 5-7 So. 1L Simi Valley, Calif. (Simi Valley HS)
16   Chelsea Anaya" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077276&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077276&Q_SEASON=2013">Chelsea Anaya INF L/R 5-2 Sr. 3L Pacolma, Calif. (Chatsworth HS)
21   Jordan Sjostrand" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077279&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077279&Q_SEASON=2013">Jordan Sjostrand INF R/R 5-5 Sr. 2L Albuquerque, N.M. (Rio Rancho HS)
22   Tess McPherson" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258829&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258829&Q_SEASON=2013">Tess McPherson P R/R 5-6 RFr. TR Scottsdale, Ariz (Notre Dame Prep HS)
23   Naomi Tellez" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077287&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077287&Q_SEASON=2013">Naomi Tellez C/INF R/R 5-5 So. 1L El Cajon, Calif. (Valhalla HS)
24   Ally Hakeem" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077284&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077284&Q_SEASON=2013">Ally Hakeem C L/L 5-9 Sr. 3L Albuquerque, N.M. (St. Pius X HS)
25   Lisa Rodrigues" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077278&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077278&Q_SEASON=2013">Lisa Rodrigues P R/R 5-8 So. 1L Brentwood, Calif. (Heritage HS)
27   Jasmine Casados" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258541&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258541&Q_SEASON=2013">Jasmine Casados INF R/R 5-3 Fr. HS Albuquerque, N.M. (La Cueva HS)
29   Nykilah Torres" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077268&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209077268&Q_SEASON=2013">Nykilah Torres OF R/R 5-7 Jr. 2L Albuquerque, N.M. (Valley HS)
31   Shelbie Franc" href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258543&Q_SEASON=2013" data-mce-href="http://www.golobos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=841933&SPID=87107&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000&ATCLID=209258543&Q_SEASON=2013">Shelbie Franc OF L/R 5-3 Fr. HS Camarillo, Calif (Adolfo Camarillo HS)