MSU Denver softball returns for the 2017 season after finishing with a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament championship and an overall record of 35-19.
Last year’s Roadrunners were led by junior catcher Sarena Espinoza and senior pitcher Cassidy Smith. The team earned a spot in the NCAA tournament, but their season came to an end in the south-central regionals where they lost to No. 1 ranked West Texas A&M in the first round.
The Runners later fell to Texas A&M Commerce and were eliminated from the tournament after their losses against two top ranked opponents.
Statistically, the Runners are bringing back their best two pitchers from the 2016 season. Hayley Fields returns for her senior season after posting team-best numbers in wins and earned run average. Fields ended the 2016 season with a 4.63 ERA and a 15-6 record. Cassidy Smith is also coming back for her senior season after posting an ERA of 4.97 and a 13-11 record last season.
The Runners also return their leaders in every major hitting statistic. Espinoza led the team in batting average and runs batted in 2016, producing a .364 batting average and 44 RBIs. Fields was second on the team with a .358 batting average, and Smith was second in RBIs with 42.
The long ball will be back for MSU Denver as well when junior Annika Anderson, the team leader in home runs with six returns. Espinoza and Fields tied for second on the team with four home runs each. Overall, the team will be returning five seniors and juniors. Head Coach Annie Van Wetting will be returning for her fourth season at the helm.
The 2017 team will need to adjust to some player personnel and coaching changes. MSU Denver hired two new assistant coaches and recruited six new players.
The first pitch of the season will be thrown Feb. 4 at 11 a.m. at the Regency Athletic Complex. The Roadrunners will be squaring off against Nebraska-Kearney.