Cal State Fullerton softball coach Kelly Ford. (Courtesy of Cal State Fullerton Athletics)
The beginning of college softball season is more than five months away, but the past few weeks have nonetheless been eventful within the Cal State Fullerton program.
In addition to Coach Kelly Ford receiving a three-year contract extension, the Titans have welcomed five transfer student-athletes to go along with a four-player freshmen recruiting class.
Cal State Fullerton, champion of the Big West Conference five times in the past seven seasons, is looking to improve on last season’s second-place conference finish, 34–21 overall record, and 31st NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
“We got better at every position,” Miss Ford told The Epoch Times. “I joke and say to my coaching staff, ‘Okay, you guys, don’t screw this up because this is a talented group.’”
Miss Ford called the addition of two graduate transfers, infielder Candace Yingling and outfielder Savannah Favre, “no-brainers” because of their ability and experience.
“We’re still seeing residuals from COVID, with athletes completing their undergraduate degrees and being able to start grad school, which is just absolutely magical,” Miss Ford said. “I support it 100 percent.”
California State Univerisity Fullerton in Fullerton, Calif., on Aug. 28, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Yingling, who was a medical redshirt at Cal last season, has two years of eligibility remaining. Golden Bears Coach Chelsea Spencer provided a glowing recommendation for Yingling, who formerly starred at Great Oaks High School in Temecula.
Favre, too, is from the Inland Empire, having been a standout at Riverside Poly High before spending two years each at Cal State Northridge and Texas-El Paso. She hit .361 with three home runs and 37 runs batted in for the Miners last season.
Two other transfers, former Oregon State outfielder Kristalyn Romulo and infielder Abigail Salazar, who played the past two seasons at Alan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, are being counted on largely for one reason.
“There were some specific weaknesses we needed to fill after evaluating last season,” Miss Ford said. “We were in strong need of speed. That was a place that we did not have a lot of depth.”
Romulo, a .300-plus hitter in each of her final two seasons at Gahr High in Cerritos, appeared in 55 games for the Beavers last season, primarily as a pinch runner. She scored 22 runs and was 4-for-4 on stolen-base attempts.
Like Romulo, Salazar has two seasons of eligibility remaining. A two-time all-conference selection, she hit a combined .371 and stole 37 bases in 45 attempts the past two years.
California State University–Fullerton in Fullerton, Calif., on March 8, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Infielder Colby McClinton, meanwhile, arrives after having started all 53 games as a freshman shortstop last season at NCAA Division II Biola University in La Mirada. She hit .429 and stole a team-high 16 bases in 20 attempts.
A native of Kaneohe, Hawaii, who won a multitude of awards at Biola, McClinton and incoming freshman Sarah Perez are being counted on to provide needed middle-infield depth. Perez played at La Serna High in Whittier.
Outfielder Kate Verhoef from Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo, catcher Addison Snyder of Valencia, and infielder-utility player Jazmin Williams of San Diego form the remainder of a freshmen class that has Miss Ford “super excited.”
The Titans, whose season-opener is scheduled for Feb. 8 at UCLA, are also expanding their coaching staff, which includes Jorge Araujo, the associate head coach.
Cal State Fullerton has already announced the hiring of former Ohio State star and professional player Jamee Juarez, while the addition of a celebrated former Titan as pitching coach is expected to become official any day.
With all of that, as well as a recent upgrade in facilities since Miss Ford took over the program 11 years ago, there is certainly no shortage of optimism.
“There isn’t a college coach in the country who has stepped on our campus in the last year and a half who hasn’t been blown away by our locker room, offices, video-analysis room, and training room,” she said. “What the university has provided is a Power-Five environment as far as facilities. It’s incredible.”