First Strike: Gauchos softball team opens season Friday night

The Saddleback Gauchos softball team meets out on the field for practice Thursday afternoon before their season begins on Friday. (Michael Grennell)

Michael Grennell

Friday night, the Saddleback softball team will open their season against the Palomar College Comets in what will be the first of a three game home stand for the Gauchos.

The Gauchos ended last season on a down note, as they were knocked out of the regional finals by the College of the Canyons Cougars in a 9-3 loss. It was the fifth consecutive year that the Gauchos made it into the regional finals. In the program’s history, Saddleback has won two conference titles, qualified for the state tournament three times, and took home the State Championship title in 1987.

Saddleback finished 29-13 overall (14-7 in Orange Empire Conference play), and in the final poll of the season, they were ranked eighth in the state, and fourth in southern California. The Gauchos also saw two of its players honored at the end of the year, as third baseman Anna Blue was selected to the All-Southern California team, and shortstop Christina Bolin was selected to the All-State team.

Bolin put up monster numbers for the Gauchos in 2012, leading the OEC in batting average (.482), runs batted in (50), and walks (34). She also tied for third in the conference in home runs, knocking nine out of the park. Blue also put up high numbers, finishing fifth in the OEC in batting average (.425), and led the team with 10 home runs, second most in the OEC.

The Gauchos will be facing off against the Comets, who finished 19-12 (11-4 in Pacific Coast Conference play) last season. In the final ranking of the season, Palomar was ranked 20th in the state, and 10th in southern California.