By Matt Schwab
In softball circles, Cal State East Bay found its way in Monterey.
The Pioneers' ah-ha moment came against Division II power Cal State Monterey Bay in the California Collegiate Athletic Association last month, when they edged the Otters 6-5 to avoid a four-game sweep.
Suddenly, everything clicked.
They've won 12 of their last 16 games overall.
"The team just decided, 'We're good and we're going to start playing like it,'" said Pioneers coach Barbara Pierce, referencing the Monterey trip. "We had some pretty good wins to that point, but that seemed to be a really strong turning point for us."
The veteran squad is led by right-handed pitchers Talia Ferrari, a great athlete and a solid hitter, and Lauren Zweigle, along with clutch power hitter Taylor Neumann and steady Jamie Yaller, among others.
Now the Pioneers (23-18, 10-14 CCAA), who were 5-2 in the Mizuno tournament in Turlock last weekend, are aiming higher still.
Pierce agreed that the team is trying to define the program for others.
"Last year we started really defining what East Bay softball meant, and what it's going to look like," Pierce said. "The second half of last year we kind to put it all together. I was really excited to get to this year with this group, knowing the talent and the potential we have."
She added that it could get "really exciting down the stretch" this season.With six conference games remaining, a berth in the conference tournament seems unrealistic -- only the top four teams advance. But the Pioneers hope to catch fifth-place Sonoma State and possibly earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Division II tournament.
The Pioneers followed their series in Monterey last month with a four-game sweep of Cal State Stanislaus and a series split with UC San Diego.
In the Mizuno tournament the Pioneers had their best showing. They dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker in eight innings to powerful Cal State Dominguez Hills in the championship game of the Silver Bracket.
In the second day of pool play, infielder Taryn Thomas (James Logan, Holy Names) set the tone with three runs and an RBI.
"She's doing great," Pierce said of Thomas, a junior transfer. "She really sets the tone. She's kind of one of those leadoff hitters, when she goes, we go."