Softball seniors take field for final games in careers
As the end of the season approaches, the UNLV softball team (23-28, 13-10 MW) will look to send their seniors out on a high note as they take on Utah State (18-32, 6-15 MW) this weekend at Eller Media Stadium.
Five Rebels will suit up for the last time in their UNLV career, including pitcher Amanda Oliveto (13-14).
“Since we came in freshman year we’ve [seniors] all pretty much been starters or contributors to the team,” Oliveto said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better class to finish my career with.”
The Aggies come to Las Vegas after being swept by Nevada-Reno and losers of their last five. Utah State has not fared well in its first season in the Mountain West. The Aggies are currently in last place in the conference.
The Aggies’ lone series win came against Colorado State, resulting in a three-game sweep from March 21-23. Since then the Aggies have been swept three times, shutout five times and have lost 15 of their last 18.
Utah State’s struggles can be attributed to poor offensive play, as they are in last in 12 categories in the Mountain West. They are led at the plate by freshman infielder Victoria Saucedo who is hitting .373 on the season. Saucedo is only one of two Aggie’s players that are hitting over .300.
“They’re really new, they’re in a transition period kind of like we were last year,” said head coach Lisa Dodd. “I kind of have my guesses of what they’re going to be like and we are ready for the challenge.”
Heading into the final weekend, the Rebels still have a chance to win the Mountain West as improbable as it is. They currently sit in fifth place, and would have to sweep the Aggies, and need a number of scenarios to go their way. More realistic for the Rebels would be to finish in the top three.
The seniors have a chance to finish with a winning record in Mountain West play. It would be the best finish since their freshman year. All five of the Rebels seniors have found themselves in the starting lineups at this point in the season.
They include RBI leader Pauline Monreal , top batter Stefany Valentino [.403], and Oliveto with the top ERA [3.46].
“They’re irreplaceable, truthfully,” Dodd said of her senior class. “Everyone of them brings something a little different, and they’re leaders in different ways.
“They have at times picked us up, and carried us, and so we are really going to miss them and their experience and expertise.”
The underclassmen also have contributed greatly and are a big reason the Rebels have had as much success in Mountain West play as they’ve had.
Sophomore Garie Blando is second in the team in hitting [.399], and junior Emily Haslinger leads with 14 home runs which puts her at second in the conference.
UNLV will begin play on Thursday night, leading up to senior day on Saturday.
“I’m really excited to get out there, a little nervous and sad, kind of a bit of everything,” Oliveto said, “I’m really anxious to finish on a good note.”